BEREA, Ohio – A case could be made for wide receiver Josh Gordon being the most gifted player on the roster as the Cleveland Browns officially kick off training camp later this week.
Whether he’s ultimately going to also be the most confounding, intriguing and/or disappointing player as the new (again) Browns head into 2013 probably is up to Gordon himself — and the decisions he makes away from the field.
Standing in the corner of the Browns indoor practice field Monday, Gordon called his June Twitter spat with Browns fans over the NBA Finals “a blank-mind moment.”
It was one of those things that didn’t need to happen, Gordon admitted, and it’s something that probably should be long forgotten by now.
If it wasn’t one in a line of his blank-mind moments, it would have been.
A second-round supplemental draft choice of the Browns in July 2012, Gordon’s rookie season was mostly successful — as far as 5-11 seasons go — but his second season is on hold. In June, the NFL announced Gordon would be suspended two games and docked four game checks for a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy.
Failing drug tests is what got Gordon dismissed at Baylor and Utah and eventually into the supplemental draft. He’s just 22, but he could already be down to his last chance in the NFL.
It sure seems like neither Twitter nor anything non-football related should crack Gordon’s list of top 100 priorities right now, and he said Monday that he’s cognizant of his reputation and anxious to redeem himself. He’ll go through training camp and be eligible to play in the preseason before being banished for two weeks.
“I still have a long way to go,” Gordon said. “I have a lot to prove.”
The administration that drafted Gordon a little over a year ago was cleaned out following the 2012 season, and that adds to the uncertainty surrounding Gordon’s status. It seems crazy to think the Browns would cut one of their most talented players — but he’s forced the team’s hand in cutting him little slack.
“Obviously I’m disappointed in the situation (with the suspension),” new Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “It’s important that Josh understands what my expectations are. I’ve talked to him about that. He understands accountability and I expect him to work and do everything he can to be the very best player he can be in the meantime.”
The Browns want — and need — big production from Gordon, not further disappointment. Gordon caught 50 passes for a team-high 805 yards and 5 touchdowns last season.
His Twitter spat included Gordon tweeting pictures of Gordon and teammate Greg Little celebrating with the Miami Heat after the Heat’s Game Seven win in the NBA Finals. NBA and NBA Finals MVP LeBron James isn’t the most popular guy to Cleveland sports fans, many of whom tweeted Gordon to share their feelings. His responses fueled the fans’ fire, and the pictures of Gordon partying only a little over a week after the suspension was announced didn’t do a lot to convince anyone that Gordon was remorseful or changed.
The people Gordon really needs on his side have been back to work in Berea for more a little over a week now, and they need Gordon’s actions and work ethic to match his remorseful words.
“This hurt a lot of people,” Gordon said. “I’m trying to regain their trust.”
When specific questions about the suspension were asked Monday, Gordon deferred to his June statement, when he said he was prescribed a medicine that contained codeine for strep throat. He said his suspension involved no “recreational use” of any drug.
A year ago, Gordon said all the right things about the opportunity the Browns had given him, the trust the team’s decision makers had put in him and his intentions to stay out of trouble and on the proper path.
He wasn’t ready to play immediately — far from it for most of camp — but when the light came on sometime in late September or early October he flashed his potential. He’s big and fast and has gifts that could make every ounce of extra effort a coach or coaches put into him worth it.
On being ready to be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL this season, Gordon said “that’s what I’ve worked for.”
This new vertical offense seems to be tailored to his talents. His football future could be very, very bright.
He has to avoid those blank mind moments — and until he does, all involved can only wait.