By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: Facing the media for the first time since the NFL suspended him for violating its substance-abuse policy, wide receiver Josh Gordon reiterated his apology, stuck to his story and insisted he’s on a mission to convince the Browns he can move on and be dependable.
“I’m definitely still trying to regain their trust and our front office’s trust, our team’s trust, just to prove to them that they can count on me,” Gordon said Monday at the Browns’ headquarters, where the team will open training camp to the public with its first full-squad practice running from 4-6:30 p.m. Thursday.
On June 7, the league suspended Gordon for the first two games of the regular season and fined him four game checks. Gordon stood behind a statement he issued the same day, which explained he failed a drug test after taking prescription cough medicine that contained codeine, a substance banned by the NFL.
Some abuse codeine syrup by mixing it with soda and candy. However, Gordon said, in his case, it was not “recreational use.”
“The fact that it happened, it was beyond me,” said Gordon, who didn’t appeal his suspension. “It was one of those things you just really couldn’t control.”
Gordon failed three marijuana tests in college, two at Baylor University and another at the University of Utah, before former Browns General Manager Tom Heckert picked him in the second round of last year’s supplemental draft.
“It’s something that’s in the past,” Gordon said of his off-field trouble in college. “It’s still going to gloom over me for a long time. But I’ve still got a long way to go, a lot to prove to the fans here, to the people here. It’s just another obstacle in my way of getting there.”
In addition to his failed drug tests in college, Gordon also must have violated the NFL’s substance-abuse policy once before because a first strike does not result in a suspension. The league does not reveal specifics about players violating its policy because of a confidentiality agreement it has with the NFL Players Association.
Gordon said he hasn’t talked to members of the new front office about his suspension, but Browns coach Rob Chudzinski delivered the organization’s message.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed in the situation,” Chudzinski said. “It’s important that Josh understands what my expectations are. I’ve talked to him about that. He understands accountability, and I expect him to work and do everything he can to be the very best player he can be in the meantime, and we’ll go from there.”
Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden also talked to Gordon about the suspension.
“He’s a mature guy,” Weeden said. “He knows he made a mistake. But I’m not going to beat a dead horse. There’s no reason for me to harp on it. I just told him this team needs him and pretty much left it at that. He knows that. He’ll be excited come Week 3. I don’t mean to put words in his mouth, but he’ll learn from his mistake.”
Gordon, who had 50 receptions for a team-high 805 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie, reiterated the apology he made in his original statement.
“I need to apologize to the team, the Browns fans, the coaching staff here, my family and friends,” he said. “This hurt a lot of people. They’re dealing with it, but I definitely plan to move on from it.”
Gordon also apologized for irritating Cleveland sports fans on Twitter this summer by bragging about being a Miami Heat fan and flaunting his desire to celebrate their most recent NBA title with LeBron James. Those tweets prompted former Browns offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley to criticize Gordon, via Twitter and local radio, for not having his priorities straight in the aftermath of his suspension.
Gordon said he didn’t see Bentley’s tweets. But the more important question, of course, is whether Gordon has his priorities straight.
“My priorities are definitely in order, definitely in line,” Gordon said. “I still got a job to come out here and do every day. I’ve got to be accountable and be a grown man, help provide for me and my family. So I do definitely have my priorities in order.”
The Browns hope Gordon shows it.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.