Josh Gordon has again been conditionally reinstated by the NFL, nearly three years after he last played a game.
The 26-year-old has been suspended for drug use, and met with commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday.
In a letter announcing the decision, Goodell said, “As emphasized at today’s meeting, everyone – including Josh’s teammates and coaches, the Browns’ ownership and organization, the Program professionals and all of us at the league office – want him to have every opportunity to resume his career and to be successful in the NFL.
“Whether that happens, however, at the end of the day will depend on Josh. His commitment to sobriety and to reaching his goals in football and beyond will determine his success. It is ultimately up to Josh.”
Gordon can immediately begin attending team meetings, do conditioning work and individual workouts and will be on the Commissioner’s Exempt List, meaning he won’t yet count against the 53-man roster. He can begin practicing on Nov. 20, and if all goes well, the Browns could elevate Gordon to the active roster on Nov. 27.
But there is still the small matter of whether Gordon will remain with the Browns.
Cleveland released a statement, attributed to vice president of football operations Sashi Brown, acknowledging that the organization had been informed of Gordon’s reinstatement.
“The personal well-being of all our players is of the utmost importance to us,” it read. “We respect and commend Josh for taking the steps necessary to have the opportunity to return to the league. Josh will be in our building in the coming days and we look forward to having him back and sitting with him to discuss his future on our team.”
The Browns, who currently have the 31st-ranked scoring offense in the league, could certainly use Gordon, assuming he can get close to the 117.6 yards per game and nine touchdowns he gave the team in 2013. However, the current regime hasn’t worked with him, and may not want to move forward with him.
But, as Cleveland should know now, the trade deadline was Tuesday at 4 p.m. It’s unclear – though unlikely – the league would make a special case for the Browns to trade Gordon at this point.
The rare supplemental draft pick, Gordon entered the league in 2012 and quickly made an impression with the Browns. But almost as quickly, he ran into trouble and was suspended.
He played in 30 games in 2012-13, and totaling 137 receptions for 2,451 yards and 14 touchdowns, earning All-Pro and Pro Bowl nods in ’13. But he had to sit out two games that season after testing positive for codeine, then a 2014 DUI meant a 10-game suspension.
He hasn’t played in a game since Dec. 21, 2014.
In a short, powerful documentary on Uninterrupted last month, Gordon admitted to extensive drug use, beyond marijuana many assumed he was using.
“I’ve used alcohol on many, many occasions, Xanax on many occasions, cocaine several occasions, marijuana most of my life, codeine, cough syrup, methazine is very prevalent where I’m from,” Gordon said. “It’s what I grew up using.
“I’ve been enabled most of my life, honestly. I mean, I’ve been enabled by coaches, teachers, professors; everybody pretty much gave me a second chance because of my ability.”
Gordon alleged that while he was at Baylor, after he was arrested for marijuana possession, one of the Bears’ coaches told him he would be drug tested by the NCAA compliance officers, and the coach gave him “bottles of detox” and showed him how to drink them.
“That was my first experience with getting over on the system and that authority not really being taken seriously, because it was kind of being guided by somebody that’s employed by the same university,” Gordon said.
He also called Goodell, whom he’s had regular contact with during his exile, a mentor, and talked about not just wanting to save his career, but also his life.