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Donte Whitner Comments on Johnny Manziel, Josh Gordon and More

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 20: Defensive back Donte Whitner #31 of the Cleveland Browns stands on the sidelines during warmups before a football game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on December 20, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks won the game 30-13. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
Daniel KramerFeatured ColumnistMarch 1, 2016

Cleveland Browns safety Donte Whitner offered empathy and concern when speaking about embattled teammates Johnny Manziel and Josh Gordon on Monday.

The team is set to move on from Manziel when the new league year begins March 9 after a slew of off-field trouble, according to Pat McMananon of ESPN.com, most notably a domestic violence case the Dallas Police Department referred to a grand jury Thursday.

Gordon, who served lengthy suspensions over the past two seasons—including the entire 2015 campaign—for repeated failed drug tests, has applied for reinstatement to the league, according to Tony Grossi of ESPN.com.

Whitner signed with the Browns in March 2014—the offseason after Gordon led the NFL in receiving yards and two months before the team drafted Manziel with the No. 22 overall pick.

The strong safety said he was watching TV when he heard Manziel, who went to rehab last year, was partying just hours after his case had been sent to a grand jury.

In an interview at the Cleveland Auto Show, the three-time Pro Bowler said he watched with distress, per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal.

"There was really a lot of empathy there because if you get everything that you care about and worked so hard for all of your life stripped away from you, all the allegations that's going on, there's no way that you can be out partying and doing whatever," he said. "So there might be a serious problem there."

TMZ Sports shared exclusive video of Manziel clubbing in Miami on Thursday:

Whitner said he hopes the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner finds a new home. He added that Manziel's off-field issues didn't affect the Browns' on-field performance.

"There was turmoil, but I don't think it affected our winning," Whitner said.

Whitner said at one point, Gordon was nearly 30 pounds over his playing weight. But he admires the work the 2013 All-Pro put in since then.

"He's that athletically gifted," Whitner said. "So when he catches up with the mental aspect of the game and the mental aspect of being in the NFL and the mental aspect of life, then he'll be an All-Pro again. He's still young enough to do that. So from what I've seen, he's ready to do it. Hopefully he is."

The Browns are open to keeping Gordon in the fold. At the NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday, executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said "there's a spot for him on the roster" if Gordon has turned things around, per Lorenzo Reyes of USA Today.

Cleveland finished last in the AFC North in each of Whitner's two seasons, but perhaps with a new start at quarterback and a rejuvenated Gordon, the Browns can steer out of troubled waters.

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