Can Josh Gordon successfully clear one last hurdle?
By Thomas Moore
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon has made it this far in his return to the team. Can he make it through one final suspension in good shape?
Thursday night’s preseason game against the Chicago Bears will provide the Cleveland Browns with one last chance to evaluate the roster prior to the start of the regular season.
It will also be the last time that anyone sees wide receiver Josh Gordon on the field until the Browns host the New England Patriots on Oct. 9.
Gordon will miss the first four games of the season while serving a suspension as part of his conditional reinstatement. He can be in team meetings and around the facility during his suspension, but cannot practice. And if everything goes right, he will be back for the season’s final 11 games.
“My plan is to go into this game strong, take away from it as much as I can possibly mentally, and retain as much information as I can,” Gordon said of Thursday night’s game. “I know going into the regular season, I’ll be here with the team working out with our training staff, make sure I stay in shape and am able to be at the point to pick up where I left off from this last preseason game. Hopefully, the transition is very smooth for me.”
Outside of missing the opening weeks of training camp and the first two preseason games with a quad injury, everything has gone smoothly for Gordon in his latest return to the team.
Working hard in practice has never really been his problem, however, it is when he is away from the game that Gordon has run into trouble. That is a big reason why the NFL’s decision to allow Gordon to be around the team for the next month is huge.
“It is really a great opportunity,” Gordon said. “Specifically just for having the access to the facility, being around the people, still being able to go to meetings and interact with your teammates, still pick up on the knowledge and installations for the game plan definitely helps as opposed to being out. You are kind of just in the wind with it. Staying in shape, that’s a major key.”
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Gordon showed enough against Tampa Bay last week in catching two passes, including a 43-yard touchdown pass, to have Browns fans dreaming of what might be with Gordon, Terrelle Pryor and Corey Colman all on the field at the same time.
Count head coach Hue Jackson among those who like what they’ve seen so far from Gordon. Of course, Jackson has been around long enough to realize that Gordon has to do more in the coming weeks than just show up for the game against the Patriots.
“He has been off to a pretty good start. If you can score a touchdown a game and catch the long ones, that is pretty good,” head coach Hue Jackson said. “He needs to stay in it. Obviously, he won’t be able to be out there with the team out at practice, but he will be able to be in the building, which I think is a huge plus.
“We really appreciate the league allowing him to do that. I think he will be able to kind of follow along with where we are and stay in it from that standpoint. That is really all he can do and just make sure he is on top of things and really understanding how we game plan, what our process is. As far as getting ready for a game, he will get a chance to see that first hand.”
There is no need to go through a detailed list of Gordon’s off-field problems other than to point out that he has only played in 19 of Cleveland’s last 48 games due to suspensions. These next four weeks may be Gordon’s last chance to show the Browns and the NFL that he has finally changed.
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Gordon made it through his latest suspension and now just needs to navigate through four more weeks.
Hopefully he can do that as easily as he navigates his way through opposing defenses.