BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Josh Gordon’s tangled ordeal, full of legal twists and turns, has finally been straightened out.
He can run a route back to the Browns this season.
Cleveland’s star wide receiver was reinstated into the NFL and had his one-year suspension reduced to 10 games Friday after the league announced changes to its drug policy. The decision ends months of personal torment for the Pro Bowler, who had been banned for repeated drug violations.
Gordon will be eligible to play in Cleveland’s final six games after the league and NFL Players Association agreed on revisions to the substance abuse program two days after announcing changes on performance enhancing drugs.
"I’m happy that the NFLPA and NFL worked hard to agree on a new substances of abuse policy," Gordon said in a statement. "I’m very thankful to my union for fighting for a significant reduction in my suspension. I’m glad I can go to the facility during my suspension. I look forward to going to meetings, working out individually, and learning from my coaches and teammates. I can’t wait until game 11 to get back on the field!"
Because he has already served two games of the suspension, Gordon will be eligible to play Nov. 23 when the Browns visit Atlanta. Gordon’s 10-game suspension will cost him more than $800,000. He’ll be paid over $300,000 if he plays in those last six games.
Gordon’s complicated saga has hung over the Browns for months. He spent training camp with the team and played in some exhibition games as his case remained in limbo while he and the Browns waited for the league to rule. Gordon didn’t speak to reporters for months, and only recently disclosed in an interview that he was depressed.
Now, there’s some closure and it may have saved Gordon’s career.
Along with Gordon, free agent LaVon Brazill also had his suspension lessened to 10 games.
Gordon was suspended by the league earlier this year for one season for another failed marijuana test. Gordon appealed the ban, his lawyers arguing he tested positive for secondhand smoke. The appeal was denied on Aug. 22 by an arbitrator and it appeared Gordon would not be able to play until 2015. And even that wasn’t for certain.
But thanks to the revised policy, Gordon is coming back, assuming he’ll stay clean during the suspension.
Under the new provisions, Gordon will be allowed to work out and attend team meetings at the Browns’ facility. Before the changes, Gordon was only permitted to meet with his clinician at team’s headquarters.
During his suspension, Gordon has been working for a local car dealership. But his locker remained filled with his personal belongings.
On Tuesday, Gordon pleaded guilty to a DWI charge in Raleigh, North Carolina, allowing him to avoid an additional two-game suspension under the new policies.
The NFL’s new policy on substance abuse includes two additional disciplinary stages for marijuana positives. A first violation will result in referral to the substance abuse program, which has always been the case.
Subsequent violations will result in a two-game fine, a four-game fine, a four-game suspension, a 10-game suspension, and one-year banishment.
In addition, the threshold for a positive marijuana test will be raised from 15 nanograms to 35 nanograms, reflecting recent actions taken by other testing organizations.
Once Gordon returns, Browns coach Mike Pettine said he and general manager Ray Farmer plan to meet with the talented 23-year-old.
"We’ll sit down with him and just kind of lay the plan out for him," Pettine said.
Farmer said the team remains focused on Sunday’s game against AFC North rival Baltimore.
"We are aware of the new NFL policy related to the reduction of Josh Gordon’s suspension to 10 games," Farmer said in a statement.
"We will continue to support and work with him under the NFL guidelines throughout this process. Our team’s focus right now remains on preparing for Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens."
Despite being suspended for two games — he blamed a prescription codeine cough syrup — last season, Gordon led the league with 1,646 yards receiving and scored nine touchdowns. He became the first player in league history to have consecutive 200-yard receiving games.
While the Browns could have him back for the home stretch, his teammates were more excited about having Gordon the person around.
"That’s great for him," safety Donte Whitner said. "That’s great for anybody that’s suspended and can’t be around their second family, and you can’t go to your second home. He’ll be able to lift here. He’ll be able to eat here. He’ll be able to watch film, so that when he’s ready to step back on the field, he doesn’t miss a step."
NOTES: Browns backup QB Johnny Manziel was glad to make his regular-season debut last Sunday, even if it was for only three plays. "It was good to shake a little rust off and just get out and run around," he said. Manziel handed off twice and threw an incompletion against the Saints. Manziel was happy for starter Brian Hoyer, who drove the Browns 85 yards to set up the winning field goal " I’m … proud of him," Manziel said. "It was really emotional for us."