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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Despite significant contributions from three rookie receivers this season, the Jacksonville Jaguars are hoping Justin Blackmon will return in 2015.
General manager Dave Caldwell said Tuesday he's "hearing good things" about Blackmon, who is suspended indefinitely for repeated violations of the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
"We hope he comes back because we know he's talented," Caldwell said. "But we know he's also a good person that's fighting a tough battle. I think we have to treat it as a luxury. If he comes back, that's great. If he doesn't, we can't count on it."
Caldwell said in April he didn't expect Blackmon to play in 2014. He responded by drafting Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson in the second round and adding Allen Hurns as an undrafted free agent. The trio combined to catch 136 passes for 1,647 yards and nine touchdowns as rookies.
Blackmon certainly would bolster the unit, especially if veteran Cecil Shorts III hits free agency as expected.
"We feel good about the three guys we've got, and if (Blackmon) comes back, that's even better," Caldwell said.
Blackmon voluntarily checked into a 90-day treatment facility earlier this season, and coach Gus Bradley said back then that updates from Blackmon's agent were positive.
Blackmon was suspended without pay in November 2013 for at least a year for his latest violation. NFL rules prohibit coaches and general managers from having contact with players suspended indefinitely.
The Jaguars (3-13) could have parted ways with the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft, but they didn't want to turn their back on a player in need. Now, the decision could pay dividends.
"Hearing some good things," Caldwell said. "Haven't been in contact with him, but just from some of his people ... that he's really kind of dedicating himself to being healthier and coming back."
Because Blackmon's contract is interrupted while he's suspended, Caldwell said he would only count about $1.7 million against the salary cap in 2015.
"There is no risk," Caldwell said. "If he comes back, he's a luxury, and that's great for us. There's no downside to it."
The former Oklahoma State star caught 29 passes for 415 yards and a touchdown in the four games he played in 2013 and was the team's leading receiver during that stretch. He has 93 catches for 1,280 yards and six scores in 20 career games.
But his problems have overshadowed his play. The Jaguars, though, have stuck with Blackmon despite questions about his accountability.
"We're trying to stand by him and try to get him where he (will be accountable) and be that type of person that we strive to be," Caldwell said. "Not everybody's perfect and we said that from the beginning. We're not going to have 53 angelic players. We're going to have some guys with issues. At the end of the day, if they're willing to do the right things and show remorse, we're not going to be the ones to judge them for that."
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