Fans of the Cleveland Browns have suffered through just about ever indignity imaginable, from losing in every manner one can think of, to losing the team altogether.
It's as if the universe has a vendetta against the Browns, who just can't seem to catch a break.
Well, chalk up another one for the cosmos.
Wide receiver Josh Gordon, who many pundits had pegged as a potential breakout candidate this year after pacing the Browns with 805 receiving yards in 2012, has been suspended for the first two games of the 2013 season (and fined two additional game checks) for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
The news was first reported by Tony Grossi of The Cleveland Plan Dealer:
ESPN Cleveland learning of 2-game suspension of #Browns WR Josh Gordon. Also docked 4 games pay. More to come.— Tony Grossi (@TonyGrossi) June 7, 2013
Cleveland head coach Rob Chudzinski released a statement, which Grossi relayed through his Twitter page:
"Obviously we are all disappointed in this news. In our short time with Josh, he has done everything that we’ve asked him to do and he has exhibited substantial improvement. We believe that he will continue to work diligently through training camp and the preseason. I am confident that others will step up in his absence".
Obviously the news is a big blow to a Cleveland offense that was hoping for marked improvements under first-year offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Gordon will miss the season opener against the Miami Dolphins and a Week 2 matchup at Baltimore.
At full strength, the Browns were likely hoping for at least a split in those two games. Now if the team is going to dodge an 0-2 start, veteran pickups Davone Bess and David Nelson are going to have to play bigger roles offensively. Third-year pro Greg Little will once again step into a role as Cleveland's number one receiver, a role he's struggled with in the past.
However, it's not the short-term impact of this suspension that should have the Browns worried.
This is far from Gordon's first misstep where banned substances are concerned, as Dave Richard of CBS Sports pointed out:
Once upon a time Josh Gordon was kicked out of two college football programs (Baylor, Utah) for failing drug tests for pot.— Dave Richard (@daverichard) June 7, 2013
In October of 2010, Gordon and a teammate were arrested after being found passed out in a Taco Bell drive-thru lane. Marijuana was found in the car.
In July of 2011, Gordon was kicked off the team at Baylor for an "undisclosed rules violation." Gordon later told John McClain of The Houston Chronicle that "It was due to a failed marijuana test.”
Gordon transferred to Utah, but chose to declare for the 2012 supplemental draft.
Care to guess why? Gordon told Nate Ulrich of The Akron Beacon-Journal:
“Yeah, there was a failed test [at Utah]. But [it’s] definitely something I want to get past. Coming out here, I have a new experience, a new foundation to get started and I don’t really plan on looking back in the past anymore. I only look toward my future".
Granted it hasn't been definitively stated that Gordon's latest suspension is for testing positive for marijuana (it won't be per the terms of the CBA), and Gordon told ESPN Cleveland in a statement that prescription cough medicine was to blame:
"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".
However, Gordon's assertions regarding the circumstances of his suspension appear to fly in the face of what sources told Grossi, being that the NFL would have hammered Gordon if they could.
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
Next time they will, and that leaves the Browns with the unenviable task of trying to figure out what to do with Gordon.
Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot they can do, short of babysitting Gordon 24/7. The old regime in Cleveland was fully aware of Gordon's past when they gambled a second-round pick on him.
Apparently there's been some worrying by the new regime where Gordon is concerned for some time.
Browns have been privately very concerned with Gordon for months, so this hardly comes to a surprise.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) June 7, 2013
A quick sidebar from the land of healthy skepticism. If Gordon's positive test was for cough syrup, then why have the Browns been concerned with him for "months?"
I'm guessing it involved Taco Bell, but that's just a guess.
Now those concerns have proven justified, and all the Browns can do is hope that this suspension serves as a wake-up call, because all the talent in the world is no good to the Browns if Gordon's in the principal's office.
What the team can't do is count on Gordon being in their long-term plans. Not now. Not when he appears to be a student of the Justin Blackmon school of NFL career management.
At least the team can take some solace in what Gordon told Ulrich back in July of 2012:
"Seeing as I’m already a guy with a spotty background, it would make no sense to go back to doing the stuff that I was doing. I mean I have no thoughts of ever trying to be that person or be the bad guy that everybody was expecting. I don’t want to be that person".
Then again, maybe not.
And maybe the universe really does hate Cleveland.