- Chris Mortensen, NFL reporter
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Former first-round pick Matt Jones, a free agent receiver who was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars in March, has been notified he will not be suspended as the result of his violation of a court-mandated drug program, his agent said.
Jones was informed by the NFL last week that he will be fined $50,000 but not suspended. Even then, the NFL Players Association has convinced Jones to appeal the fine, according to Dave Butz, his agent.
Jones was suspended for the final three games of the 2008 season after he lost a league appeal stemming from his arrest for cocaine possession last July. In that case, Jones entered an Arkansas drug diversion program but was sent to jail for five days in March as punishment for drinking alcohol; Jones told the court he had "two beers" during a golf outing, a violation of the conditions placed upon him.
The Jaguars released him shortly thereafter.
An NFL spokesman declined to comment Tuesday, a standard response until the appeal process runs its course. Regardless, Jones will not face a suspension for the 2009 season if he is signed by an NFL team.
"That's the main message -- that Matt will be available to any team looking for a proven receiver," Butz said.
Asked about the perception that Jones has been "a bust," Butz countered, "Well, he caught 65 passes in 12 games last year for the Jaguars and he was their No. 1 receiver. If he wasn't hurt one game and didn't have the three-game suspension, he may have caught 80 to 90 balls.
"In his first two years, he was the third most productive receiver of his rookie class, despite some musical chairs at quarterback. So that 'bust' tag isn't fair, at all."
Jones has been training hard for six hours a day during the offseason, Butz said.
"He wants to prove himself all over again," Butz said. "He has stated very clearly that he regrets some decisions he's made but he's moving forward. I mean, the Jaguars didn't cut him after the [arrest] last summer. They saw a different guy; there was just a different reaction when he had the two beers. I see a guy who's very hungry to make a strong contribution to a team."
While Jones is "eager to turn the page," the agent explained why he is appealing the $50,000 fine, payable if he is employed again by a team.
"The [players] union believes the league has no right to fine Matt any money because the substance abuse policy won't allow it," Butz said. "In the letter the league sent, it seemed to cite personal conduct but the union believes because it involved alcohol, it should have kicked back to the substance abuse policy without penalty."
Chris Mortensen is a senior NFL analyst for ESPN.