And now, he's suspended.
On Friday, longstanding rumors were confirmed when the Browns announced that second-year receiver Josh Gordon will serve a two-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. He'll also be docked two additional game checks, losing nearly $150,000 in pay for his latest slip-up.
Trouble is nothing new to Gordon, whom the Browns took in 2012's supplemental draft in exchange for their 2013 second-round draft pick. The reason why Gordon was in the supplemental draft can be traced back to failed drug tests at Baylor that resulted in his suspension from the team. He then transferred to Utah, where he had to sit out the 2011 season in accordance with NCAA rules, and then opted to try his hand at the NFL rather than play for Utah in 2012.
His questionable background didn't dissuade the Browns from swapping a 2013 draft pick for the chance to land him in 2012, and for the first year, the gamble paid off. Despite not playing football in 2011, Gordon became the Browns' leading receiver, catching 50 of his 96 targets for 805 yards and five touchdowns. He had a mere four drops in his rookie season and his 16.1 yards-per-reception average was the same as the league's best receiver, the Detroit Lions' Calvin Johnson.
According to a statement released by Gordon, the positive drug test came as a result of cough syrup containing codeine which he was prescribed in February, along with antibiotics, to treat a case of strep throat. It's hard to discount Gordon's claims, given the fact that he was not handed the maximum suspension for the unintentional ingestion of a banned substance, especially with the league fully aware of his problems in college.
Of course, codeine is a well-known narcotic and it's not hard to look it up on the NFLPA's list of banned substances, or for a player to call the NFLPA's supplement hotline if he is at all uncertain whether what he's been taking or been prescribed could violate league policy.
If Gordon's claims for why he was suspended are true, then at least this isn't a case of a formerly troubled player failing to learn from past mistakes, but a basic lapse in judgement that, unfortunately, results in the Browns not having their deep-threat receiver on the field against the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens in Weeks 1 and 2. There shouldn't be a worry that Gordon is a problem player who will continue to be a suspension risk for as long as he's in the league.
Clearly, this shows that Gordon has some learning to do, whether that means exhibiting better judgement even when it comes to a doctor's prescription or staying away from the bad influences that marred his collegiate career. The more he finds himself in trouble, the closer he could be to finding himself out of a job, both in Cleveland and in the NFL. And there's nothing the Browns need less right now than having their premier receiver on the shelf, regardless of the reason.
At this point, however, there's no reason to believe that Gordon is reverting to his old ways and will continue to be in trouble while in the NFL. This appears to be an honest mistake, one that Gordon has taken full responsibility for, and one that hopefully will become a distant memory once he returns to the field in Week 3. All indications are that this won't be the tip of the disciplinary iceberg for Gordon in the NFL, but a final, important learning experience for a receiver on the rise.