Cleveland Browns, Josh Gordon and expectations

Aug 9, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon (12) during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 9, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon (12) during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cleveland Browns have stood by wide receiver Josh Gordon. Now it is time for him to repay that loyalty.

Author Sylvia Plath wrote that “If you expect nothing from somebody you are never disappointed.”

That is a good bit of advice for the Cleveland Browns and their fans regarding the return of wide receiver Josh Gordon.

Monday’s excitement over Gordon’s conditional reinstatement after being suspended for 27 of the past 32 games was tempered on Tuesday, when his physical revealed he has a quad injury that will sideline him for at least the first two weeks on training camp.

Many fans have made the assumption that Gordon will seamlessly step back onto the field and be the player he was in 2013, a season that saw his set a franchise record for receiving yards in a game with 261. His seven games with more than 100 receiving yards is also a franchise record.

That was three years ago, however, and Gordon has only played in five games total since then. And as his quad injury shows, being in shape and being in NFL-ready shape are two different things.

But even if Gordon is not the same player he was in 2013, he can still help the Browns. Take out his one big year and, in 18 other career games, Gordon has still caught 74 passes for 1,108 yards and five touchdowns. And he did that while playing with the likes of Mohamed Massaquoi, Greg Little and Davone Bess, not to mention a revolving door of quarterbacks.

If he can put up those type of numbers surrounded by that cast of characters, it is not unreasonable to think he can post similar stats while being on the field with Corey Coleman, Gary Barnidge, Andrew Hawkins and Duke Johnson. (The Browns are still working on removing that revolving door at quarterback, unfortunately, but one problem at a time.)

None of that matters, of course, unless Gordon can stay on the field, which, as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell pointed out, is completely up to Gordon.

One of the key parts of Gordon’s latest comeback is that he is allowed to be with the team during his four-game suspension to open the season. While he can’t practice or be at the games, Gordon can still be in the facility during the week, attending meetings, working out and being in the locker room.

That structure can go a long way toward keeping Gordon engaged and focused during what has the potential to be a long four weeks from the close of the preseason until Gordon can take the field on Oct. 9 against the New England Patriots. The downside is that if Gordon wants to be a problem in the locker room it could have a long-term impact on the four rookie wide receivers the Browns are looking to build around.

The Browns and Gordon have been down this road before and it didn’t go well. Gordon was disinterested during training camp in 2014 as he knew he was facing a 10-game suspension to open the season. Gordon was not allowed to have contact with the team during that suspension, however, so this time it could be different.

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Again, it is all up to Gordon to show that he has matured since he last appeared in a game and that he wants to be an NFL player more than anything else.

Gordon has never come off as a bad person, but rather someone who makes poor decisions and allows himself to be surrounded by like-minded people. The Browns gave bring structure to Gordon’s life during the week, the true test will come during those first four weekends of the season when the team is playing and Gordon is (hopefully) sitting quietly at home.

Gordon is talented, young and carries a team-friendly contract, all assets to a rebuilding team like the Browns. But he is also unreliable as his multiple suspensions in college and with the Browns show.

When the Browns used a supplemental draft pick on Gordon in 2012 he vowed that things were going to change.

“Despite everything I’ve been through, despite being a kid with a spotty background, the Cleveland Browns stuck their neck out and risked taking me and put their faith and belief in me, and I won’t let them down,” Gordon said at the time in multiple published reports. “I’m grateful, and I know I can’t go back to being the person I used to be.”

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The Browns have stuck by Gordon every day since then and this is probably Gordon’s final chance to reward that faith.

It’s all up to him.