BEREA: Quarterback Brandon Weeden isn’t the only Browns player new General Manager Mike Lombardi doubted during his tenure as an analyst for NFL Network.
When the Browns selected wide receiver Josh Gordon in the second round of the 2012 Supplemental Draft, thereby forfeiting their 2013 second-round selection in April’s NFL Draft, Lombardi criticized the pick.
So when the Browns hired Lombardi as their personnel chief Jan. 18, Gordon tweeted: “Uh oh. Am I in trouble?”
Clearly, Lombardi’s criticisms followed him to Cleveland, but Gordon insists he tweeted mostly just in good fun.
“It was just a little funny joke,” Gordon said Thursday after a session of organized team activities. “It was nothing to be concerned about, maybe just getting some emotional feeling out at the time, trying to get a little jab back with what he said about me earlier.”
Gordon said he and Lombardi never actually talked about the incident but are on good terms with each other.
“We’re good now, everything’s cool,” he said. “We’re here to take care of football and what we have to do out here, and he understands that, and so do I. We let bygones be bygones. We heard about it all, but other than that, we take it as grown men. I have no problem with him, he has no problem with me.”
When informed of Gordon’s tweet during his introductory news conference in January, Lombardi said Gordon had nothing to worry about. He might have changed his initial tune after Gordon’s rookie season, in which he caught 50 passes for 805 yards and five touchdowns and established himself as the team’s No. 1 receiving threat.
Gordon might be headed for more. His skill set fits nicely with the down-field, vertical passing attack coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner want to deploy. From what Gordon’s seen so far, the new offense will be unrecognizable compared to the West Coast system used by previous Browns coach Pat Shurmur and his staff.
“Defenses will be shocked to say the least with how much we’re running down field,” Gordon said. “I’ve never ran this much as a wide receiver ever in my life, and that’s a good thing. And not just me, everyone from the slot guys to running backs, everyone’s got passing plays in the system.”
Gordon’s one season in the NFL was enough to draw some high praise comparing him to one of his childhood heroes. Rotoworld.com evaluated tape of Gordon’s rookie season and described him as having “Andre Johnson-like movements,” connecting Gordon with the Houston Texans star, widely considered one of the two or three best receivers in the league.
“It’s a big honor to me, to be considered in the same sentence with him,” Gordon said. “Growing up in Houston, I got to watch him for a long time in high school. I idolized guys like him, [Detroit Lions receiver] Calvin Johnson, some great receivers you mold your game after. If I can make it even close to what he is or was, I’d consider myself a success in that regard.”
Gordon has as much potential as any receiver who has been with the Browns for several years, though he’s a long way off from matching Johnson’s production. Still, he has at least one thing going for him this offseason: He’s here for all of it.
Gordon missed minicamps and OTAs (organized team activities) last year after waiting for the July 12 Supplemental Draft to unfold. Being in camp earlier is allowing him to find a comfort zone he didn’t have a chance to experience last year.
“You’re a head up on the game,” he said of being in OTAs. “For guys, veterans and rookies, to have all this leading up until [the fall], I was way behind the 8-ball coming into last year. Now it’s a huge advantage for me to learn the offense, get in shape, get in more of a rhythm with whatever you’re doing out there, so you don’t feel as stressed or as new to everything. It’s definitely slowed down a lot.”
Whether that translates to the field this year remains to be see, but Gordon has the potential to take a significant step forward.
Browns CEO Joe Banner is hopeful Gordon proves to be worthy of a second-round pick, but he is withholding judgment.
“I think Josh has a lot of potential, and we are excited about what he can do,” Banner said April 27 during the team’s draft wrap-up news conference. “We’re all going to see how he develops and what he can turn into. In the end, that question will answer itself, I think. We’re certainly rooting for him to prove that was a great decision.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.