In Week 15, Josh Gordon caught a 58-yard deep ball and threw the first interception of his pro career in a Seahawks win over the Panthers. That may have been the last time he’ll set foot on an NFL field.
On Monday, news broke that the current Seattle wide receiver was suspended indefinitely without pay after violating the league’s policies on both performance-enhancing drugs and substances of abuse.
STATEMENT BY AN NFL SPOKESPERSON:— Seahawks PR (@seahawksPR) December 16, 2019
Josh Gordon of the Seattle Seahawks has been suspended indefinitely without pay for violating the NFL policies on performance-enhancing substances and substances of abuse.
The discipline marks the fifth time in his eight-year NFL career that Gordon has been suspended by league officials. It also may be the final straw that leads to a lifetime ban from the NFL.
Gordon has played in only 33 games since his All-Pro breakthrough in 2013. 2019 marks the second straight year he’s faced an indefinite suspension late in the regular season. Though the league hasn’t yet publicly commented on Monday’s announcement, it’s fair to expect a heavy-handed response to Gordon’s repeated violations.
How did we get here?
Gordon’s trouble with drug policies began at Baylor, where he was suspended indefinitely after testing positive for marijuana after a team-mandated drug test. That led him to transfer to the University of Utah, where he had another urine test flagged for weed. He’d never play a game for the Utes after declaring for the 2012 NFL Supplemental Draft.
He was drafted in the second round by Cleveland, where he made an immediate impact. A strong rookie campaign gave way to a league-leading 1,646 receiving yards in 2013 — a number made all the more impressive when you factor in the games he missed that fall while serving a two-week suspension for having codeine in his system.
One year later, another failed drug test, this time for marijuana, threatened to wipe out his entire 2014. He’d get that ruling reduced to 10 games on appeal, but wound up suspended by the Browns for a violation of team rules before their season finale. He played five games in his third year as a pro.
Gordon failed another drug test for substances of abuse less than five weeks after the season’s end, leading to a suspension of “at least one year” from league headquarters. He applied for reinstatement one year to the date after his 2015 infraction, but had his initial request denied thanks to another flagged test. The NFL eventually allowed him to attend training camp with the Browns on a conditional basis. It also suspended him an additional four games that year.
Gordon instead sat out the 2016 season while attending an in-patient rehabilitation program and was eventually granted a conditional reinstatement late in 2017.
Gordon played in five games for Cleveland at the end of that season, making 18 catches for 335 yards and scoring one touchdown in the process. That set him up to return for the start of 2018, though he’d play only one game for the Browns before they decided to part ways with their talented, but unreliable, wideout.
He was shipped to the Patriots along with a seventh-round pick in exchange for a fifth-rounder and made 11 starts for New England. While he was a key part of an eventual Super Bowl-winning team, his redemption wouldn’t last. Shortly after Gordon announced he’d step away from the game in order to focus on his mental health in December, the NFL announced he’d been suspended indefinitely for violating the terms of his conditional reinstatement.
Gordon would eventually be cleared to rejoin New England the following August. He’d last six games alongside Tom Brady before being placed on injured reserve and then waived on Oct. 31. The Seahawks claimed him on waivers two days later. He played in 11 games this fall before his latest suspension.
What does this mean for the Seahawks?
Seattle treated Gordon like found money after claiming him. The rangy deep threat had been used sparingly, earning only 11 targets in five games. Even though he was able to make an impact when called upon — his 12.6 yards per target were tops among the team’s wideouts — he wasn’t, statistically, a vital piece of Russell Wilson’s passing offense.
Gordon’s impact on the field goes beyond just his catches, however. Much of his value as a Patriot was his ability to stretch opposing defenses vertically and create space for receivers and tight ends to thrive in the short and intermediate passing game. That didn’t necessarily translate in Washington state — Wilson’s efficiency numbers dropped significantly in Gordon’s five games with the team. But that additional firepower could be something the Seahawks miss as they gear up for the postseason and make their final push toward the top seed in the NFC.
It’s unclear what the league will eventually decide to do with Gordon. The veteran wide receiver has been forthright with the amount of work he’s put into maintaining his sobriety, but his constant violations of NFL drug policies have cast an unignorable shadow over a once-promising career. It now looks like he’ll once again have to stare down his demons in order to get his life — both on the gridiron and off — back on track. Even if he never plays another down, that recovery is something we’ll all be rooting for.