It’s a tantalizing prospect, but new Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson must forge ahead with the assumption that talented wide receiver Josh Gordon will not be available to him in the 2016 season.
As expected, the suspended wide receiver has applied for reinstatement from his indefinite suspension for multiple violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy, according to ESPN.com.
Gordon was barred on Feb. 3, 2015 of last year for what was his third violation of the policy. The window to apply for reinstatement comes within 60 days of the anniversary of the suspension and the league in turn has a 60-day window to act.
The Baylor product has had significant issues with both marijuana and alcohol over the years, as he progresses through what is essentially a pretty easy policy to traverse if you show a modicum of intelligence and a little moderation.
Once you’ve been caught up in the policy, however, things become much more difficult, especially with players who have legitimate addiction problems because they can be tested up to 10 times a month.
Gordon’s latest misstep came with alcohol when he failed a test after the 2014 season, shortly following a prior 10-game suspension for a DWI arrest. In college, meanwhile, he failed multiple marijuana tests and many teams placed a red flag on him despite his prodigious talent.
In an open letter posted on The Cauldron, Gordon claimed that he had two beers and a couple mixed drinks on a private flight to Las Vegas with several teammates on Jan. 2, of last year. He also brazenly posted evidence of his missteps on social media, something that prompted an order to report to a testing location within four hours after he landed.
“It was the first time I had consumed so much as a drop of alcohol since July 4, 2014, the day of the DWI,” Gordon wrote.
Gordon admitted that he never confirmed with the league whether he could consume alcohol after the season.
“It doesn’t matter if I thought that the league-imposed restriction on drinking had expired at the end of the regular season; what matters is that I didn’t confirm whether or not that was the case,” he wrote. “Now, that oversight has further jeopardized my relationship with my team and our fans, my reputation, and maybe even my career.”
Then, the rationalization began despite the fact that Gordon himself agreed to the drinking ban as a condition for getting a 12-game suspension knocked down to 10.
“Did I think that was excessive given I had never had any issue whatsoever with alcohol? Yes,” he claimed despite the rather obvious elephant in the room of a DWI. “Did I think it was hypocritical that a professional league making hundreds of millions of dollars off beer sponsorships was telling me not to drink? Yes. Did I so much as blink at the condition? No. My primary concern was and is being the best football player I can be; I really didn’t even view it as much of a punishment or sacrifice.”
In other words, I’ll say what you want if I get what I want.
Despite all of this, Gordon obviously deserves another chance to play in the NFL because others have done far worse and been reinstated by the league.
That said, Jackson needs to be realistic as he tries to rebuild the Browns and counting on a player who has never shown the intelligence or maturity to stay on the football field, especially when you think about million of dollars on the line for him, is a damning indictment.
Gordon always has an excuse whether it’s the codeine in his prescribed cough syrup, second-hand smoke, or the blood-alcohol level that’s only .01 over the legal limit. What he has never offered is accountability and an answer to why so many NFL players don’t have these same kinds of issues again and again.
“What I do know is the following: I am not a drug addict; I am not an alcoholic,” said Gordon. “I am not someone who deserves to be dissected and analyzed like some tragic example of everything that can possibly go wrong for a professional athlete. …I have made a lot of mistakes but I am a good person, and I will persevere.”
The root of Gordon’s addiction may be up for debate but the meaning of the word itself is not — compulsive engagement in perceived rewarding behavior despite adverse consequences.
If that doesn’t describe Josh Gordon’s prior actions, what does?
— John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season every day at 4:05 ET on ESPN South Jersey, on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the Sports Bash on ESPN South Jersey.
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