Jim Brown says Josh Gordon is motivated to return

Dec 14, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon (12) before the game between the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 14, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon (12) before the game between the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cleveland Browns may not be waiting on Josh Gordon, even if the suspended wide receiver is motivated to make a return from his latest infraction.

The Cleveland Browns will bring the off-season to an official close next week during the team’s veteran minicamp.

Once those workouts are complete the players will head their separate ways until training camp, a period of time that teams across the league worry about as it provides ample opportunity for players to find themselves in trouble.

The Browns will have one less player to worry about this month, of course, as wide receiver Josh Gordon remains on the league’s suspension list for violating the substance abuse policy. Gordon was eligible to be reinstated in April, but the league denied his bid after he reportedly failed a drug test for marijuana in March. He can try again for reinstatement on Aug. 1.

“His way of expressing himself, the responsibility he was taking made me feel really very motivated about his chance of getting back.” – Jim Brown on Josh Gordon

While Gordon has been quiet since the league’s ruling, Jim Brown – who will reportedly have a “larger role” with the organization – said he has spoken with Gordon and the talented but troubled wide receiver is ready to “take responsibility” for his career.

“I’ve talked with Josh twice on the phone, and the last time I talked with him he sounded very motivated and I think he was in rehab and feeling good about it and discovering some things about himself,” Brown told cleveland.com. “He really seemed ready to take responsibility for himself.”

Brown also questioned the logic behind the league punishing players for using marijuana.

“It’s legal in some places and illegal in others, so you can’t have a situation where it’s legal in one state and not in another,” Brown said. “They have to come to some understanding of it and punishment is not always a way to help somebody.”

While Brown has a point about punishment not always being the best course of action, the players agreed to the parameters of the substance abuse policy in the latest collective bargaining agreement. If they decide they want the league to take a softer stance on marijuana use, the league would probably be happy to oblige as long as the players agreed to give back some money, which will never happen.

If Gordon is reinstated, it will be interesting to see if the team welcomes him back. While Brown is convinced that the club will be “very happy to have (Gordon) back,” executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown and head coach Hue Jackson have been considerably less non-committal about Gordon’s future prospects with the team.

“If Josh comes back, great,” Brown said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “And if he doesn’t, we’re ready.”

The Browns may have also signaled their intent to move on – or at least not wait around – for Gordon when they selected four wide receivers during the 2016 NFL Draft.

Even if the league does reinstate Gordon it will most likely occur once the regular season has already started, and as everyone saw the last time Gordon returned midseason from a suspension, that is not conducive to him being a productive player.

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Gordon missed the first 10 games of the 2014 season, returning to much fanfare to a Browns team that was 6-4 and battling for the AFC North Division title. But Gordon was uninterested, couldn’t be bothered to learn the playbook, and was a major liability to the offense as Cleveland’s promising start fizzled out during a five-game losing streak to close the season.

Things went so poorly that season for Gordon, who finished the year with just 24 receptions for 303 yards, that the team ultimately made him inactive for the season finale for an unspecified violation of team rules.

If the NFL takes 60 days (which it can do) to rule on the reinstatement petition and ultimately decides to allow Gordon to return, he would come back to the team sometime in October – almost 22 months after he last played a competitive game in the NFL. It didn’t work out last time, so there is little reason to believe that this time would be any different.

At this point, football is the last thing that Gordon or anyone working with him should be focusing on. The important piece in all this is for him to get control of whatever demons have continually plagued him since his days at Baylor and then worry about what comes next.

If Jim Brown is right, it sounds like Gordon may finally be ready to do just that.

Next: Browns need Gary Barnidge to be healthy in 2016

If Josh Gordon is reinstated, should the Cleveland Browns welcome him back or is it time for the team to move on?