Updates from Sunday, Sept. 14
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network has the latest update on Josh Gordon and his chances of training at the Browns facility during his suspension:
Per new rules of the impending drug agreement, #Browns WR Josh Gordon is now allowed to be at their facility. What the team badly wanted— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 15, 2014
Updates from Friday, Sept. 12
Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer has the latest:
#Browns Josh Gordon has been notified that his suspension is now a total of 10 games. That's pending final approval of the new drug policy.— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) September 13, 2014
Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer reports on the length for Gordon's potential reduced suspension:
#Browns Gordon will have his suspension reduced from season-long to 10 games because of the stage he was in: 4th violation equals 10 games.— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) September 12, 2014
#Browns Josh Gordon's DWI hearing is Nov. 18 in Raleigh, N.C. If he's convicted, that would be 2 more games out for a total of 12.— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) September 12, 2014
Gordon spoke out on Twitter, though he didn't specifically indicate that he was referencing this situation:
Hmm.. Interesting..— Flash Gordon (@JOSH_GORDONXII) September 12, 2014
Cabot also provides comments from head coach Mike Pettine:
#browns Pettine not getting his hopes up about josh Gordon returning after 8 games: "I'll believe it when I see it."— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) September 12, 2014
Zac Jackson of Fox Sports Ohio reports on which game the Browns would be able to expect their star wideout back:
If the 8 games reports are true re: Gordon, he'd be eligible for the Browns Nov. 6 Thursday nighter in Cincinnati.— Zac Jackson (@FSOhioZJackson) September 12, 2014
Updates from Thursday, Sept. 11
Matthew Berry of ESPN shared a report from Adam Schefter on how a new drug policy would impact Josh Gordon's suspension:
.@AdamSchefter on NFL Insiders just said if NFL-NFLPA agreement is approved, Josh Gordon would still be suspended for some games, maybe 6-10— Matthew Berry (@MatthewBerryTMR) September 11, 2014
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport has more detail:
New drug policy, if approved, would include higher marijuana threshold. But every current suspension reviewed individually. Including Gordon— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 12, 2014
Updates from Friday, Sept. 5
Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer has the latest on Gordon:
Two league sources told cleveland.com that the suspended receiver might be eligible for re-instatement this season if the NFL and the NFLPA approve the revamped drug policy that they're feverishly working on.
The issue with Gordon, however, is that he may have tested positive for marijuana before the league year began on March 11. If that's the case, the new rules might not apply to him. A league source told cleveland.com that the NFL has known about Gordon's positive test since February -- even though it didn't surface publicly on ESPN until May 9th.
Still, that's not necessarily a dealbreaker in terms of Gordon getting back on the field this season.
Updates from Monday, Sept. 1
Pro Football Talk reported on potential legal action by Gordon after his suspension:
Decision on whether Josh Gordon will pursue legal action over his suspension will come in next day or two. Don't be shocked if he sues.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) September 1, 2014
A Josh Gordon lawsuit would include a request to block the suspension pending the outcome of the case.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) September 1, 2014
Updates from Thursday, Aug. 28
ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported on one avenue Gordon may explore while he sits out the 2014 NFL season:
Josh Gordon is exploring the possibility of playing the rest of the year in the Canadian Football League, per sources. @ESPNNFL— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) August 28, 2014
Mortensen added more details:
Gordon's plans include having a dialogue with CFL officials on whether he would be eligible to play there and still return to the NFL in 2015 if he is reinstated by commissioner Roger Goodell, sources said. He would remain under the NFL's treatment program, which would include counseling and random drug testing.
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com highlights why it will be unlikely to occur:
Texting with a CFL GM who tells me if Josh Gordon is under contract & suspended, rules don’t allow him to play in CFL. Only if he’s cut.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 28, 2014
Why is LaVon Brazill allowed to play in the CFL while suspended? Because he was cut by the Colts. Gordon still under contract— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 28, 2014
Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer reports on what the Browns' decision would be:
A Browns official has commented on Gordon potentially playing in the CFL, per ESPN's Pat McManamon (via Adam Schefter):
Browns official to @PatMcManamon on Josh Gordon to CFL: "He can’t per his nfl contract…and you can say a source says he can’t…"— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 28, 2014
Alex Marvez of Fox Sports added some clarity to the CFL's policies regarding NFL suspensions for substance abuse:
CFL doesn't honor NFL suspensions for substance abuse. Only PED suspensions per CFL labor agreement. That's why LaVon Brazill can play there— Alex Marvez (@alexmarvez) August 28, 2014
Mortensen breaks down why this will not be like the time Ricky Williams played in the CFL during his suspension from the NFL:
The CFL official said the league "made a mistake" and closed loophole that enabled Ricky Williams to play for Toronto while under suspension— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) August 28, 2014
Once again, the football gods have frowned upon the Cleveland Browns, as the NFL has upheld the year-long suspension of star wide receiver Josh Gordon for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports was first to report news of the failed appeal:
BREAKING: Sources tell @FOXSports1 Browns WR Josh Gordon's one-year suspension has been upheld on appeal.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) August 27, 2014
The NFLPA also released a statement on behalf of the Browns receiver:
I’d like to apologize to my teammates, coaches, the Cleveland Browns organization and our fans. I am very disappointed that the NFL and its hearing office didn’t exercise better discretion and judgment in my case. I would like to sincerely thank the people who have been incredibly supportive of me during this challenging time, including my family, my agent, my union, my legal team, and the Cleveland Browns staff.
Albert Breer of NFL.com passed along the NFL's statement on the suspension:
Appeals officer Harold Henderson has upheld the suspension for the 2014 NFL season of Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. The suspension is effective immediately. Gordon’s eligibility for reinstatement will be determined following the 2014 season.
ESPN's Chris Mortensen highlights a key point in the ruling:
Josh Gordon's suspension is for season, not necessarily a full calendar year. If he stays clean, chance he is reinstated for offseason— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) August 27, 2014
Breer shared the next steps for Gordon following the announcement:
Per source, there is no avenue for reinstatement as part of the Josh Gordon decision. His camp will look into other alternatives.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) August 27, 2014
... Gordon's legal team will evaluate the full decision and decide how to proceed on that front.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) August 27, 2014
Having talked to people who know Josh Gordon, there's a feeling his self-esteem issues are the overriding problem, moreso than the drugs.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) August 27, 2014
Browns GM Ray Farmer commented on the announcement via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
While we may have strong feelings on the timing and the process of this decision, we have also consistently communicated that we will focus on what we can control in our day to day approach. Right now that is preparing our team for the 2014 season and at the same time, supporting Josh however we are able under NFL guidelines during his suspension.
Coach Mike Pettine added: "We will continue to support Josh and we understand that there is accountability for one's actions. Our job and that of the team is to focus on what we can control."
The news doesn't come as a huge surprise, despite Gordon's appeal. He was already in Stage 3 of the league's substance-abuse program when his latest violation took place, according to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio. Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com reported on June 3 that the team was "expecting the worst—an indefinite suspension with a chance to apply for reinstatement after one year."
Gordon also made headlines on July 5 when Grant deBruin of WKYC in Cleveland broke the news that the 2013 All-Pro was arrested in Raleigh, North Carolina:
ESPN's Adam Schefter followed that report with the news that Gordon's arrest came as the result of driving while impaired:
Browns WR Josh Gordon was arrested in Raleigh, N.C. for DWI – driving while impaired, according to Raleigh police captain Tommy Klein.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 5, 2014
To call this a huge loss for the Browns would be an understatement. Despite missing two games due to suspension to start the year in 2013, Gordon finished with 87 catches for a league-leading 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns, including an incredible four-game stretch starting in mid-November in which he caught 36 passes for 774 yards and five scores.
He was going to be the main target this year for either Brian Hoyer or 2014 first-round pick Johnny Manziel, but those plans have obviously gone out the window. Now, the team will have to rely on Andrew Hawkins, Nate Burleson and tight end Jordan Cameron, among others, to step up.
According to multiple reports, the Browns' front office knew before the 2014 NFL draft that Gordon could be facing suspension. Cabot and Mortensen, among others, tweeted as such:
Browns upper echelon made their first-round decisions with knowledge of Josh Gordon's pending status, is under appeal, per sources— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) May 9, 2014
As Mortensen reported on SportsCenter minutes before the second round of the draft commenced, however, the coaching staff was made aware of the news about the same time the reports became public.
It raises an interesting question: While the Browns obtained an additional first-round pick in their trade with the Buffalo Bills, should they have stayed put and selected a receiver like Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans instead, knowing Gordon would be lost for the year? Or should they have selected Odell Beckham at No. 9 after the trade?
The Browns ultimately decided not to select a receiver in the draft altogether. Instead, the team signed veterans Miles Austin and Earl Bennett following the draft to shore up the position.
As for Gordon's future, the red flags surrounding him have become full fire alarms. Given his talent, there's little doubt he'll get another shot in this league. But will it be with Cleveland, or will the team cut ties with him given his issues?
Additionally, will this latest suspension cause Gordon to change his ways? Will he be able to mature and put his off-field issues behind him? He didn't get off to a good start in that regard considering he was issued a speeding ticket over Memorial Day weekend, and his passenger in the car was cited for marijuana possession—not to mention the July DWI arrest. Gordon pleaded not guilty to the speeding ticket, but the situation is still concerning for a player who was already under the microscope.
Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter questioned Gordon's priorities, telling Cabot, "It's fairly obvious that (using substances) is more important to him than anything else. It's always been very, very important to him. It's well-documented that it's been primary since early college. Maybe it even goes back to early high school."
If that's true, it isn't good for Gordon's future prospects in the league. Cabot wrote on July 3 that some people who know the wide receiver think that a year away from football will make it even more difficult to get back on the field.
Will Gordon ever play for the Browns again?
"Sources close to Gordon have told Cleveland.com they're concerned that if he's away from the team for a year and away from his support system, that he'll have a tough time making it back into the NFL," Cabot noted.
Cabot's sources cited Justin Blackmon as a prime example of a player who was lost without football following a suspension, noting that the Jacksonville Jaguars are poised to move on from the troubled receiver, who isn't likely to be reinstated this season.
The party in Cleveland, sparked by an exciting Round 1 on draft day, has come to an end, unfortunately. And the meteoric rise of what appeared to be the next great wide receiver in the NFL has crashed back to Earth, unexpectedly and rather unfortunately.
Cleveland now must hope a more dedicated running game can guide the offense and that some new faces in the receiving corps can rise to the occasion.