Josh Gordon’s comeback continues. One week after rejoining the Cleveland Browns, the embattled wide receiver is back on the team’s active roster. The 2013 first-team All-Pro had been absent at Browns’ training camp this summer as he proactively sought treatment for his health.
Gordon thanked the Browns when he returned to the team last Saturday:
“As I humbly return to being a member of this team with an opportunity to get back to playing this game I love, I realize in order for me to reach my full potential my primary focus must remain on my sobriety and mental well-being,” Gordon’s statement read.
General manager John Dorsey said that Gordon would be eased into football activities:
“We are glad Josh has reached a point where he can return to our organization, be in our building and be around his teammates,” Dorsey said. “As he assimilates back to our team, Josh will initially participate in meetings and conditioning and will gradually resume all football activities as deemed appropriate.”
Now that he’s activated, he can participate in walkthroughs. He’s also been cleared for practice, though the Browns have said Gordon likely won’t play in their final preseason game due to a tweaked hamstring.
“He’ll be back out there sooner than later, that’s for sure,” head coach Hue Jackson said. He’s hoping Gordon will be ready for Week 1.
Why did Gordon take time away?
In July, Gordon said he needed to step away to take care of his mental health.
The Browns, who okayed the decision, put him on the team’s non-football illness reserve list in response.
While the move raised some eyebrows due to Gordon’s past substance abuse issues, sources across the league were quick to come to his defense, noting the amount of work he’d put in to his NFL return.
Browns’ WR Josh Gordon did not have any slip ups or failed tests, per sources. His leave is a pro-active, defensive gesture to get extra counseling to try to ensure he does not have any of the setbacks that have marked his past. Those who know him say he has “worked his a— off.”— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 23, 2018
Gordon’s hard work off the field will now give way to hard work on it. The electric wideout has played just 10 games since his breakout 2013 campaign, but he’ll be counted on to lead a limited receiving corps in Cleveland.
What does this mean for the Browns?
Cleveland’s revival just got a bit more reasonable. Gordon is an All-Pro talent when healthy and allowed to play. At his best, he’s an explosive playmaker who racked up more than 1,600 receiving yards in just 14 games in 2013 with Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden, and Brian Hoyer throwing to him. And while that was five years ago, he hasn’t exactly been taking a beating on the field in the seasons since. A fresh-legged Gordon can still be a force.
That’s hugely important for the Browns, who don’t have many other playmakers to rely on in 2018. Jarvis Landry has been a bellwether of production in his four seasons in the league, leading the club to sign-and-trade for him to team with Gordon and lead its aerial attack. After that, things get grim.
2016 first-round pick Corey Coleman was traded to the Bills in exchange for a seventh-round pick, which is all you need to know about how badly his star faded in Cleveland. 2017’s most productive wideout Ricardo Louis (27 receptions, 357 yards) will miss the season due to a neck injury. Rookie Antonio Callaway dropped in the 2018 NFL Draft due to character concerns, then proved his doubters right by getting cited for marijuana possession before his first preseason game.
The Browns also hosted free agent Dez Bryant last week. There’s no deal as of now, but the two sides are still talking.
Whenever he’s back on the field, having Gordon will boost a team staring at its most optimistic quarterback outlook in a decade. Tyrod Taylor has been an efficient, turnover-averse passer who brings stability to a volatile position after arriving in Cleveland via trade this spring. He’ll keep the seat warm for 2018 No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield, who will be tasked as the team’s latest attempt to build a franchise cornerstone. There’s a lot of talent there — and they’ll each need someone to throw to if the Browns are going to climb out of irrelevance and back toward a playoff berth.
What does this mean for Gordon?
Gordon’s inability to stay on the field has marred what should have been an exceptional NFL career. League suspensions have reduced him to just 40 games since he was selected in 2012’s supplemental draft.
He’s got plenty to prove with the Browns, a team that’s held onto his rights throughout a tumultuous tenure. Gordon’s comeback began in earnest last fall when he suited up for five games to finish off Cleveland’s 0-16 campaign. While he wasn’t back to 2013 form, he was productive, making 18 catches for 335 yards and a touchdown — though he hauled in just 42.9 percent of his targets, a career-low.
He’ll have a stronger lineup of quarterbacks throwing to him this fall, and he’ll have more time to acclimate to NFL game speed in the process. If he can stay on the field, Gordon will have the chance to prove he’s more than just a cautionary tale of wasted potential. This is another step in the right direction.