Justin Blackmon news is encouraging

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It’s early in the process and there is still a long way to go, but the fact that Justin Blackmon has voluntarily entered a treatment facility is a good sign that the troubled receiver may finally be turning his life around.

That should make the Jacksonville Jaguars cautiously optimistic that there’s a chance he could one day be back on the field.

Admitting to a problem is the first step in solving a substance-abuse issue and that seems to be what Blackmon is doing. Recovery is a long process, though, and relapses are common, so even though Blackmon has finished almost half of his commitment there’s still an element of uncertainty about his future.

If Blackmon does indeed complete the program, prove that he has turned his life around, and is reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, then Jaguars GM David Caldwell’s decision not to cut Blackmon after his third alcohol or drug-related arrest in July could turn out to be one the best he’s made in his two seasons.

There was public outcry to cut Blackmon -- including what I wrote -- and take a stand about unacceptable behavior, but Caldwell was firm that there logical reasons not to do so.

Since Blackmon is currently serving an indefinite suspension for his third violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse program, he isn’t being paid and doesn’t count against the salary cap or roster limit. His contract is essentially paused, meaning he still owes the team 2 1/2 years of service if he were to ever return. Plus, if the Jaguars did cut him they would have been unable to recover any bonus money they have already paid.

Blackmon has been very productive when he has been on the field, catching 93 passes for 1,280 yards and six touchdowns in 20 games. It’s hard not to think about the kind of impact he could make if he rejoined a position group that would include second-round picks Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee, Ace Sanders, and undrafted rookie gem Allen Hurns. Provided Robinson, Lee and Hurns continue to progress, the Jaguars could potentially have one of the best group of young receivers in the league.

That’s looking far ahead, though. Right now the only thing to focus on is that Blackmon appears to finally be committed to getting help. That’s good news for him and the Jaguars.