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Justin Blackmon Suspended for Rest of 2013 Season

The Jacksonville Jaguars announced last week that Justin Blackmon, second-year receiver, is suspended indefinitely without pay for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. He will be eligible to apply for reinstatement before the 2014 season.

According to CBS Sports, the substance-abuse violation is Blackmon’s second in just over six months. Blackmon missed the first four games of the 2013 season after violating the league’s substance-abuse policy in April. CBS Sports also reported that Blackmon’s troubles began even before his first NFL game. He was arrested for a misdemeanor DUI in June 2010 while playing for Oklahoma State and again for aggravated DUI in June 2012, a mere two months after the Jaguars drafted him (CBSsports.com, Jaguars WR Justin Blackmon suspended for rest of 2013 season, November 1, 2013).

“All of us who are a part of the Jaguars family care very deeply about Justin and his well-being. That said, he must be held accountable and accept the consequences announced today by the NFL,” Jaguars general manager David Caldwell said in a statement. “His suspension will provide him the opportunity to receive the attention and professional treatment necessary to overcome his challenges, and we will support him during this time.”

Blackmon is far from alone when it comes to NFL players facing substance abuse problems and suspensions. In a blog post on FOXSports.com, Pat McAfee discussed the requirements of “Stage 1” of the NFL’s substance abuse program.
It includes:

  • (Up to) eight random urine tests a month. Testers could show up at any time and the player has four hours to complete the test or they fail.
  • Meet with a substance abuse counselor once a week for at least one hour
  • Check in with the league anytime the player is relocating. Players must give the address they will be staying, how many days they will be there, and two phone numbers where they can be reached (“#McAfeeCulture: A Deeper Look Into the NFL’s Substance Abuse Program”, msn.foxsports.com, August 26, 2013).

“Some are saying professional sports get a bad rep for substance abuse. It used to be that players simply missed a few games and the NFL overlooked their indiscretion. This practice has changed. Players are being held responsible for their actions and are getting the help they need. Substance abuse is a legitimate disability and it can cripple a person’s ability to live a normal life,” says Frank N. Darras, disability lawyer to the pros. “While there is hope for Justin Blackmon, other NFL players should really consider investing in disability insurance in case they are sidelined due to substance abuse or other injuries.”

Substance abuse is a disease that may qualify a player for disability insurance. Insurance companies are slowly realizing that mental health issues are as much a disability as a torn ACL. The key here is having documentation, testing and intensive treatment from a respected psychiatrist or psychologist who can advocate on your behalf,” says Darras.

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