By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: Wide receiver Josh Gordon conceded that he stayed by his phone as he waited for the NFL trade deadline to pass Tuesday afternoon. He 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 Wednesday 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.
“He just reassured me about it, saying that nothing was going to happen,” Gordon said. “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 turned on his phone.
“I did not talk to anybody [Tuesday] except for my agent [Drew Rosenhaus],” 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) on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium. Now NFL teams cannot make trades until 4 p.m. March 11.
Gordon hopes the lifted burden of a possible trade will translate to even more production from him this season. 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 at least a one-season banishment from the league.
But Gordon is also emerging as one of the best young receivers in the NFL. 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.”
Among receivers who have played a minimum of six games this season, he’s ranked second in the NFL with an average of 97 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. 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 it 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. 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 drug violation and other off-field issues, he could be the offense’s most dangerous weapon for a long time.
“He’s grown a lot, not just as a player, but as a person in understanding and maturing on and off the field,” Chudzinski said. “He’s not perfect, none of us are, but I see progress. I see him going in the right direction in all areas. I’m excited about his future, and I’m excited about him being here.”
Not happy with calls
Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas is not happy about two crucial holding penalties he drew Sunday during the fourth quarter of a 23-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I disagreed with them,” Thomas said. “And after watching the film, I still disagree with them.”
Chudzinski said the Browns would submit both calls to the NFL for clarification.
The first one negated running back Willis McGahee’s 9-yard run that would’ve put the Browns in field-goal range at the Chiefs’ 27-yard line with about 11 minutes left and the Chiefs leading by three points. The second one wiped out Campbell’s 13-yard scramble that would’ve given the Browns a first down on their 41 trailing by three with about three minutes left.
“To me, that’s blocking,” Thomas said. “If that’s a flag, then every play is a flag, on really both of them.”
Outside linebacker Quentin Groves (ankle) returned to practice Wednesday after sitting out last week. He has missed five of the past six games. … With Travis Benjamin (torn right anterior cruciate ligament) out for the season, wide receiver Armanti Edwards, who signed with the Browns on Tuesday, is an option to return punts against the Ravens, Chudzinski said. Edwards also has played Wildcat quarterback in the past, said Chudzinski, who coached Edwards the past two seasons as the offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers. “I’m willing to play any role,” Edwards said. … Chudzinski said the team wouldn’t activate right guard Jason Pinkston, who suffered a high-ankle sprain in the preseason, from injured reserve until next week. Pinkston has been practicing the past two weeks and believes he’ll be ready to play after the Week 10 bye. “I should feel pretty good then,” Pinkston said.
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.