Ten final thoughts as the bizarre days in Berea just keep on coming.
1. All the energy from the drafting of quarterback Johnny Manziel Monday and his Tuesday press conference was sucked out of the building about three hours later with the report by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” that Browns receiver Josh Gordon faces a possible one-year suspension for another violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, the Browns’ front office learned of Gordon’s failed test for marijuana two weeks ago. Mortensen said via Twitter that coach Mike Pettine and his staff learned about 90 minutes before the start of the draft Tuesday.
2. The fact that Gordon was one strike away from such a ban hung over his head during his record-setting season in 2013. On his last transgression, Gordon was able to bargain his suspension down from four to two games. Gordon blamed that failed test on using cough syrup that contained codeine. If the ESPN report is true, Gordon will surely appeal. But after getting a break a year ago, I can’t see the league going easy on him for his third strike no matter if he is a rising star.
3. Gordon may have played his last game in a Browns uniform. As sad as that is, especially because such a talented young man may not be ready to seek help, Gordon knew last season that an organization rarely puts up with repeat offenders who won’t change their ways. A tweet from Arizona Cardinals’ defensive back Tyrann Mathieu (@Mathieu_Era), who had similar struggles with substance abuse, seemed touching. “I understand how Josh Gordon feels about now. I felt this way also, all I can say is look in the mirror & find yourself. Be Great!”
4. Coming on the heels of the Gordon news was an ESPN report that Browns receiver Nate Burleson fractured his arm during OTAs. Burleson missed the final day of a voluntary minicamp on May 1. But when coach Mike Pettine was asked if Burleson was injured, Pettine said Burleson was “OK” and in good standing with the team. Burleson told the Associated Press that he had minor surgery to fix the plate in his arm and would be ready well before training camp. “If today were the playoffs, I would be playing,” Burleson told the AP.
5. The Browns wouldn’t comment on either situation. Their hands are tied on Gordon, they are prevented from talking about players in the league’s drug program until the NFL announces its penalty. “Whenever we do have clarity, we’ll definitely express our sentiments then,” General Manager Ray Farmer said. That’s what he should have said when he opened Tuesday night’s post-draft press conference. Instead he said, “I know there’s been a lot of shocking supposedly news that we’re not going to comment on in regards to Josh Gordon.” That did not set the right tone.
6. Burleson’s injury is another matter. Apparently we’re back to the dark ages of Bill Belichick’s “I’m not a doctor.” Despite several questions about Burleson, Pettine said the league doesn’t require the Browns to discuss injuries at this point. Farmer said Burleson is not going to miss any games. The two may not realize the scrutiny they may be inviting from the league when they post injury reports during the season.
7. The status of Gordon and Burleson makes it baffling why Farmer ignored the receiver position in the first three rounds of the draft. Not only could he have selected either of the draft’s two best -- Clemson’s Sammy Watkins or Texas A&M’s Mike Evans – with the No. 4 pick, but the Browns could have had USC’s Marqise Lee, projected as a first-rounder, with the 35th overall pick in the second round. Instead, the Browns drafted guard Joel Bitonio of Nevada in the second round and linebacker Christian Kirksey in the third. Then Farmer traded back into the third round for running back Terrance West, a touchdown machine at Towson. Two trades on Monday left the Browns at No. 8, where they took cornerback Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State.
8. Yes, receiver is this draft’s deepest position. Among those still on the board are Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis (6-foot-1), UCLA’s Shaq Evans (6-1), South Carolina’s Bruce Ellington (5-9), Alabama’s Kevin Norwood (6-2), Clemson’s Martavis Bryant (6-4), Notre Dame’s T.J. Jones (6-0), Saginaw Valley State’s Jeff Janis (6-3) and Rutgers’ Brandon Coleman (6-6). After his trades, Farmer has two picks left, No. 127 (27th in the fourth round) and No. 218 (third in the seventh round). I love Abbrederis, but he might not last until 127.
9. Farmer also said that receivers can still be acquired through trade or picked up if released by other teams. “I’m not concerned with my depth at wide receiver,” Farmer said. What's frightening is if the season started tomorrow, Greg Little and Andrew Hawkins (a slot receiver) would be his starters.
10. All in all, it was an "Only in Cleveland” day. The Burleson story almost seemed like a fraud, considering that the Gordon news had broken not that long before. The euphoria over Manziel may bounce back soon. But the change in the atmosphere in the building was tangible, the buzz gone. The feeling that happy days are here again evaporated way too quickly.