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Browns' draft devoid of receivers despite seemingly pressing need

By Jason Lloyd Published: May 10, 2014

BEREA: Their star receiver could be facing a lengthy suspension and one of their newest receivers reportedly has a broken arm, but the Browns refused to address the position both during and after the draft on Friday.

Josh Gordon is expected to be suspended for the season following yet another failed drug test, according to ESPN, and Nate Burleson reportedly had surgery to repair the plate in his left arm after he injured it during a voluntary minicamp last week. Yet the Browns ignored what seemed like a pressing need during the second and third rounds of the draft, then refused to answer questions about either player during a 24-minute press conference that grew contentious at times.

Teams are prevented from commenting on suspensions until they are announced by the league, but there is nothing preventing them from confirming Burleson’s injury. Burleson did so himself in a text to the Associated Press late Friday night.

“I’m just fine,” Burleson told the AP. “I had minor surgery to fix the plate in my arm so I’ll be ready well before training camp. If today were the playoffs, I would be playing.”

Burleson’s agent, Ken Sarnoff, wrote on his Twitter account Burleson had “a very minor surgery. He will be 100% for day 1 of camp!”

Still, the Browns refused to address the matter. Browns coach Mike Pettine said last week Burleson was excused for the final day of minicamp, but was still in good standing with the team. When asked directly if he was injured, Pettine said Burleson was OK.

“The league doesn’t require us to discuss injuries at this point,” Pettine said Friday.
Added Farmer, “Nate Burleson is not going to miss any games for our football team. Does it really matter if he’s here or if he’s missing or decided not to come to the off-season program at all?”

This would be Gordon’s third strike in the league’s drug program. ESPN reported that Farmer was aware of the looming suspension before the draft began on Thursday, yet he still chose to pass on Clemson’s Sammy Watkins and instead traded the pick to the Buffalo Bills, who drafted Watkins.

Then the Browns drafted Nevada offensive lineman Joel Bitonio at the top of the second round, passing on USC’s Marqise Lee and Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews. Both receivers went within seven picks of the Browns selecting Bitonio.

They selected Iowa linebacker Christian Kirksey in the third round, then traded back into the third round to select Towson running back Terrance West. They have just two picks remaining on Saturday: one in the fourth round and one in the seventh.

“At the time we made our selections, we took the best player available for what we wanted to do,” Farmer said in explaining why he passed on receivers. “There were players available, we stuck with our board. As we looked at that board when it was our turn to select, we took the name that was the best name for us at that time.”

Farmer said he was “not concerned” with the Browns’ depth at wide receiver.

”I feel that there are multiple receivers that have a chance to contribute to our team,” he said. “Those guys that are here, as well as guys that may not be here, will have that chance. I do feel that we have a guy on the roster that can definitely contribute in that starting capacity.”

The mood and tone within the facility was starkly different from Thursday, when euphoria erupted following the selection of Johnny Manziel. But dreams of a triple-threat offense that included Manziel, Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron were short lived.

Less than 24 hours after selecting Manziel and introducing him to the media, Pettine and Farmer were facing accusations of misleading their fans since the franchise knew of Gordon’s possible suspension while selling more than 2,300 season tickets from the time the draft began until 5 p.m. on Friday.

News of Gordon’s suspension broke about an hour later.

“I would tell folks that until I really have something to tell them, there’s nothing I can say,” Farmer said.


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