Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon has reportedly been suspended by the NFL for the first two games of the 2013 season. He's also been docked four games' worth of pay for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
UPDATE: Sunday, June 9, at 12:56 a.m. ET by Ian Hanford
According to The Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot, Gordon could face a year suspension if he were to fail another drug test:
Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon already has two strikes against him after testing positive for codeine in February, and could get kicked out of the NFL if he fails a third drug test, league sources said Saturday.
Gordon's two-game suspension and four-game fine for the codeine -- which he said was contained in cough syrup prescribed for strep throat -- means he was already in Stage Two of the NFL's substance abuse program.
---End of update---
ESPN's Tony Grossi broke the news on Twitter:
BREAKING: #Browns WR Josh Gordon will be suspended 2 games and docked 4 games pay for NFL substance abuse violation. More to come!— Tony Grossi (@TonyGrossi) June 7, 2013
The NFL also released an official statement regarding the decision to punish Gordon (via Adam Caplan):
Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns has been suspended without pay for the team’s first two regular-season games of the 2013 season and fined two additional game checks for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse.
Gordon will be eligible to return to the Browns’ active roster on Monday, September 16 following the team’s September 15 game against the Baltimore Ravens. Gordon is eligible to participate in all preseason practices and games.
Grossi later added that the suspension could have actually been worse:
Sources told ESPNCleveland that #Browns WR Josh Gordon would have been suspended longer but college positive tests didn't carry over to NFL.— Tony Grossi (@TonyGrossi) June 7, 2013
Following the reports from the league on his suspension, Gordon in turn released his own statement on the culprits behind what he claims was a medical-related issue—nothing more (h/t Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk):
In February, I was diagnosed with strep throat for which a doctor prescribed antibiotics and cough medicine. Apparently, the medicine I took contained codeine, which is prohibited by the NFL policy.
The policy terms are strict about unintentional ingestion, but the NFL has not imposed the maximum punishment in light of the facts of my case. Therefore, I have chosen to be immediately accountable for the situation. I sincerely apologize for the impact on my team, coaches, and Browns fans. I look forward to working hard in training camp and pre-season, and contributing immediately when I return in week three.
The statement gives way to the idea that Gordon will not appeal the suspension.
Taken by the Browns in the second round of the 2012 NFL supplemental draft, Gordon quickly became one of Cleveland's most explosive receivers during his rookie season. He had 50 catches for 805 yards and five touchdowns in 16 games (13 starts) while becoming a downfield threat for fellow rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden.
His 16.1 yards per reception tied Gordon with Calvin Johnson for the seventh-highest average in the NFL in 2012.
As NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah noted, Gordon was slated to have a breakout year both on the field and in fantasy football leagues everywhere:
Two WR stocks to buy-- Josh Gordon and T.Y. Hilton. Both guys caught 50 balls last yr. I expect 80+ for Gordon and 70+ for Hilton. #NFL— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) May 30, 2013
Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller also weighed in on the NFL's announcement, bringing to light earlier concerns about Gordon's character when the young wideout was one of Robert Griffin III's receivers at Baylor:
#Browns Josh Gordon, who was suspended at Baylor, now suspended by NFL. Two games, plus four game checks docked.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) June 7, 2013
Gordon was suspended from the Bears back in July 2011 (h/t AP via ESPN), just months after he had a breakout season for head coach Art Briles during his sophomore season (42 receptions, 714 yards, 7 TD).
Should Cleveland be wary of the latest news surrounding Gordon's off-the-field concerns?
He then left the school permanently in August (via ESPN's David Ubben), before spending the next year preparing for the 2012 NFL draft independently. Cleveland made Gordon a surprise selection in taking him with the first overall pick of the second round of the supplemental draft, and looked like geniuses after a promising start to his NFL career in 2012.
The Browns will likely rely on Greg Little, Davone Bess and David Nelson on the outside, but the news of Gordon's suspension couldn't have come at a worse time—Cleveland's starting running back, Trent Richardson, is dealing with an injury prior to training camp (via ESPN).
Although his suspension only spans the first two games of the season (vs. Miami and at Baltimore), it certainly has to be disappointing for Browns coaches, management and fans who thought he had turned the corner following a checkered past at Baylor.