The best way to describe Josh Gordon’s chances of playing in the CFL this season:
A source close to Gordon told FOXSports.com that the Cleveland Browns wide receiver has strong interest in heading north of the border while serving a year-long NFL suspension for again violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. The source said Gordon would be in Canada “within hours” if granted permission by the Browns.
Barring a successful legal challenge, that won’t be happening.
The Browns are unwilling to let Gordon explore a CFL opportunity, FOXSports.com has learned. Gordon remains under contract to Cleveland during his suspension, which effectively gives the franchise power to block the NFL’s 2013 leader in receiving yardage from joining another pro league.
Calgary holds Gordon’s CFL rights. Even if the Browns granted permission for him to join the Stampeders, the CFL prohibits such a move. The league has closed a 2006 loophole that allowed running back Ricky Williams to play with the Toronto Argonauts while serving a recreational-drug suspension as a member of the Miami Dolphins.
“The rules state that a player under contract to any team including the NFL or (Arena Football League) can’t sign with the CFL,” CFL communications manager Jamie Dykstra told FOXSports.com. “The rule goes further to say if a player is under contract in the NFL that although they may be serving a suspension they still can’t sign with a CFL team.”
The CFL rules are different for NFL players suspended for recreational drug use who aren’t under contract. The latest example came Wednesday when Toronto signed wide receiver LaVon Brazill to its practice squad. Brazill was released by the Indianapolis Colts last month after being suspended for one year by the NFL as a multi-time offender for marijuana use.
The Argonauts have a long history of signing banned NFL players. The list includes three former first-round NFL picks: Williams (New Orleans), wide receiver R. Jay Soward (Jacksonville) and tackle Bernard Williams (Philadelphia).
An NFL spokesman declined comment when asked for the league’s stance about the CFL not honoring the league’s substance-abuse suspensions.
The CFL doesn’t test its players for recreational drugs. However, it does have a testing program for performance-enhancing drugs. The CFL also acknowledges PED infraction from other leagues and governing bodies.
Dykstra said a PED violation under NFL rules would be considered a “first strike” in the CFL that wouldn’t result in suspension but would cause the player to undergo mandatory drug testing. A second PED violation would carry a three-game CFL suspension; a third brings a one-year ban.
The CFL’s PED policy is lenient compared to the NFL where a first-time offense generates a mandatory four-game suspension. However, the CFL tests for human growth hormone — something the NFL doesn’t do because of a long-standing impasse with the NFL Players Association.
An NFL arbitrator denied Gordon’s appeal of a positive marijuana test Wednesday and upheld his one-year suspension. The league said a more specific timetable for Gordon’s return to team activities in Cleveland would be determined after the 2014 season ended.
After missing the first two games last season while serving another NFL drug suspension, Gordon proceeded to catch 87 passes for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns despite having to play with three different Browns quarterbacks. His absence on an otherwise mediocre wide receiver corps is a major blow to Cleveland, which also had hoped the NFL would reduce Gordon’s suspension to allow for a return later in the 2013 campaign.
Even if given the chance to rejoin the Browns this season, Gordon’s track record raises questions about whether he would have remained out of trouble. He was arrested in July on a DUI charge, which could lead to further NFL punishment beyond his current drug suspension.
As for Brazill, agent Brad Cicala told FOXSports.com his client is planning to sign a one-year deal with a team option for the 2015 season after spending time on Toronto’s practice squad. Brazil caught 12 passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns last season as a Colts backup.
“We felt it would be in LaVon’s best interest not to impede his growth as a young football player during the time period while he is fulfilling the requirements to be reinstated back into the NFL,” Cicala wrote in a statemen to FOXSports.com. “This decision was made based on the current rules of the CBA and the Policy for Substances of Abuse in the NFL. Once LaVon was released from the Indianapolis Colts, we went forth to pursue an opportunity with Toronto.”