Blackmon, NFL rookies warned to avoid trouble

Associated Press Modified: June 29, 2012 at 4:03 pm •  Published: June 29, 2012
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BEREA, Ohio (AP) — His gray T-shirt soaked with sweat, Justin Blackmon sat at a picnic table following lunch and waited to make a final catch for Brandon Weeden, his former Oklahoma State teammate now with the Browns.

The trigger man for one of college football's most dynamic pass-and-catch combinations, Weeden made a handoff, sliding an ice cream sandwich in front of Blackmon, who leaned back and smiled.

On a muggy Friday morning, Blackmon, Weeden and other first-year AFC players participated in a youth football clinic as part of the NFL's weeklong rookie symposium, a comprehensive orientation program to ease their transition into professional life.

The chance to run around with kids was a welcomed break for the players, who have spent the past few days inside conference rooms listening to former players like Terrell Owens and Adam Jones warn them about controlling their finances, guarding their privacy and not making mistakes in their personal lives.

For Blackmon, it's more about not making another one.

Now with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Blackmon was arrested earlier this month on a drunken driving charge in Stillwater, Okla. It was his second alcohol-related offense in three years and an early misstep he regrets and hopes to never repeat.

The first-round draft pick's blood alcohol content was allegedly three times over the legal limit. He pleaded not guilty to a DUI misdemeanor and his next court date is July 24, three days before the Jaguars open training camp.

There's nothing he can do about it now other than move forward and repair his tarnished image.

"I'm past it," said Blackmon, who faces a possible suspension. "My team is behind me and that's all that really matters to me."

Blackmon's criminal situation, and other legal matters involving young players, is one of the main reasons the league has been gathering its rookies for the past 15 summers to educate them on how a poor decision can adversely affect their careers. This week, the players have heard testimony from ex-players who have gone bankrupt, had marriages crumble and battled addictions.

They've been told there is an acceptable standard and they must rise to meet it. It's been an eye-opener for many.

"What I've gotten out of it is to use the resources that the NFL has for you," Blackmon said. "There are a lot of people out there that are there to help you get through the transition into the NFL, and just use them instead of just trying to do it yourself."

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