Wide receiver Josh Gordon conceded that he stayed by his phone as he waited for the NFL trade deadline to pass Tuesday afternoon. He could finally let out a sigh when 4 p.m. struck and he was still a member of the Browns.
“I’m definitely relieved,” Gordon said today before practice. “I wanted to stay here. I didn’t feel like uprooting myself and moving and starting all over again. I feel as though we have a lot to prove out here and a lot to build on in this offensive program, and I want to say I can at least be one of the guys that helps get it started.”
For six weeks, Gordon endured speculation about the possibility that the new regime would trade him. The Browns received proposals for Gordon, and two teams had standing offers of a high draft pick and a player, ESPN reported last week.
Gordon, 22, said he spoke to coach Rob Chudzinski about the rumblings.
“Coach Chud was the only guy I talked to about it,” Gordon said. “He just reassured me about it, saying that nothing was going to happen.
“I expected to stay here. I really didn't think that I would end up anywhere else, and I was glad it turned out that way.”
But Gordon also knew nothing could be ruled out. That’s why he had his phone turned on and was ready to answer.
“I did not talk to anybody [Tuesday] except for my agent,” Gordon said. “He said anything is possible going to the last minutes of it, so we would just have to wait and see.”
In the end, the Browns (3-5) held onto their best offensive player heading into the second half of this season and their upcoming AFC North showdown against the Baltimore Ravens (3-4) Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium. Now NFL teams cannot make trades until 4 p.m. March 11.
Gordon is hoping the lifted burden of a possible trade will translate to even more production from him in the second half of this season than the first. In turn, he’s hoping the team can make a run.
“I want to end up in a playoff game,” Gordon said. “We have more than enough games left to do it. If everybody’s head is in the right spot, I definitely think we can pull it off.”
Keeping Gordon, who was picked in the second round of last year’s supplemental draft by the previous regime, is a risk-reward proposition for the Browns.
The NFL suspended Gordon for the first two games this season for violating its substance-abuse policy, the result of a failed drug test he blamed on ingesting prescription cough medicine that contained codeine. It’s Gordon’s understanding that one more violation of the policy would result in a minimum of a one-season banishment from the league.
But Gordon is also emerging as one of the best young receivers in the league. In six games, he has tallied 32 catches for 582 yards and three touchdowns.
“I definitely want to view myself as a top-tier wide receiver,” Gordon said. “I plan on playing like that and practicing like that until I can’t do it anymore. That’s what I’m striving for, to be one of the best. If that’s the outcome at the end of the day and the end of the season, then that’s exactly what I work for.”
Among receivers who have played a minimum of six games this season, he’s ranked second in the NFL with an average of 97.0 receiving yards per game. Among those with at least 15 receptions, he’s ranked second with an average of 18.2 yards per catch. Since last season, he’s third with 16.9 yards per catch among players with a minimum of 40 catches.
“Josh is a big part of what we do on this team, and I think he’s probably more excited now to have that behind him -- the rumors and everything about him being traded -- so he can move on and continue to get himself ready to play games,” quarterback Jason Campbell said. “He can really be really good. I always tell him to study film of some of the great ones that’s playing right now, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, continue to learn from those guys. What is it that they do best on a week in and week out basis to put up the things that they’re doing? Josh has all the ability in the world to be what he wants to be.”
Of course, the key for Gordon will be staying out of trouble off the field.
“My actions will always have a consequence of what I’m doing, positive or negative,” Gordon said. “I’ve always known that. But if definitely matures you. There’s a lot of stuff going on right now, considering the fact you might be traded, and people might feel a certain way about it and think that it’s due to something else, due to off-the-field issues or whatever. But it really doesn’t faze me. As long as I do my job and keep my head level and stay out of the way, I’ll be fine.”
That’s exactly what the Browns hope Gordon does. If he can avoid another violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy and other off-field issues, he could prove to be the offense’s most dangerous weapon on a long-term basis.