BEREA: Offensive coordinator Brad Childress was stumped when he first heard the Browns drafted wide receiver Josh Gordon in the second round of the supplemental draft July 12.
“I got off a cruise boat and somebody said, ‘We signed Josh Gordon,’ ” Childress said Thursday. “And I said, ‘Who’s Josh Gordon?’ ”
The entire NFL is starting to find out.
Gordon has made a name for himself in the past two games by compiling five catches for 181 yards and three touchdowns. With scores of 71 and 62 yards, he also has established himself as a deep threat, and he’s hoping to continue his tear Sunday when the Browns (1-5) visit the Indianapolis Colts (2-3).
“I think the light is going on,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “I think he’s making improvements. I think I made that comment based on what I see all week long, based on how I see him function in the building, based on the way I see him function in meetings and then how he’s practicing more up to mine and our standards. I think those are all the things you need to see, in my opinion, before a guy can go out on the field and have success. His success the last two weeks has kind of validated that process in my mind and so the key now is to just continue with that.”
General Manager Tom Heckert took a chance on Gordon despite some red flags. Gordon was kicked out of Baylor after testing positive for marijuana twice. He then failed another test after enrolling at Utah. He practiced with the team last year but wasn’t allowed to play in games because of NCAA transfer rules.
His inactivity certainly had something to do with Childress not knowing who he was.
“I fell off the radar and I’m a long ways from where I was, so I’m not surprised,” Gordon said. “But now that I’ve gotten my opportunity, I definitely want to come out and make a name for myself, and hopefully we can go back and laugh at it later.”
But for now, Gordon is all business. He has developed better practice habits after often looking lackadaisical this past summer during training camp. He also has been taking good notes in meetings, Childress said.
“You’ve got to pay attention,” Gordon said. “If you don’t, you might miss it out there on the field, and you don’t want to have that happen when it comes game time. You’ve got to know what you’re doing. People are out there counting on you, and I definitely want to be one of those guys that can be [relied on] and you can really trust me [as] that go-to guy eventually.”
The Browns are also counting on Gordon to stay clean and out of trouble. So far, he has rewarded their faith.
“You definitely gotta be accountable for yourself, for the sake of the organization and then yourself,” Gordon said. “You really have to know what you’re doing. If you’re going to be careless at this point, it’s totally your fault. I’m really not trying to head down in that direction.”
Gordon doesn’t want to revert to his old behavior partly because he knows what it cost him. Led by quarterback Robert Griffin III, Baylor had an exciting season. Gordon missed an opportunity to be part of it and become a household name.
“It’s motivated me every day,” Gordon said. “I was out that whole year watching TV, ESPN, watching all my teammates, all my friends perform well. My guy Griff won the Heisman [Trophy]. It was really difficult for me, but it’s an everyday motivation.”
If Gordon continues to use that memory as fuel, everyone will know his name.
Adjusting to armor
Rookie running back Trent Richardson is trying to get used to the flak jacket he’s wearing to protect his injured rib cage.
“He’s wearing something that’s bulletproof — he told me he thought he already was,” Shurmur quipped. “Now he’s got go wear something to make it happen.”
Richardson, the third overall pick in this year’s draft, continued to practice on a limited basis Thursday. He suffered a rib cartilage injury as a result of absorbing a blow from a helmet Sunday in the first quarter of the Browns’ 34-24 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I still feel good,” Richardson said Thursday. “In my head, I’m going to play Sunday. It’s up to Coach to make a decision.”
Richardson said he’s growing accustomed to the flak jacket. He has never worn one before.
“They say it’s going to protect me, so I guess it is,” Richardson said. “I’m getting used to it. I just feel like it’s a mental thing. It’s not something I’m going to have to get used to my whole career. It’s something I’m going to have to wear for right now til I heal up.”
Although Richardson expects to play, there’s a chance his workload might be reduced because of the injury. Backups Montario Hardesty and Chris Ogbonnaya could receive more playing time if that’s the case.
“He’s our starting running back,” Shurmur said. “Ideally you would like to see him get the highest percentage of the snaps first, second, third down, backed up, going in, short yardage. You would want him to be the main guy, and then we’ll just get a feel for the flow of the game. I trust those other guys behind him to go in there and do what they’ve got to do.”
Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said that cornerback Joe Haden played well for the most part Sunday in his return from a four-game suspension, but that rust reared its ugly head toward the end of the game. Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green beat Haden’s coverage on a 57-yard touchdown with 5:21 left in the fourth quarter.
“I wish I had noticed more or anticipated more how much the game would take out of him because at the end of the game, I think he had lost his legs to some degree,” Jauron said. “He was struggling, and it made sense after the fact. But it was too bad they got that long one on him at the end because he had played really well.”
Haden was suspended for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances after his Adderall use triggered a failed drug test. He worked out at his family’s gym during the downtime, but nothing compares to live action on the gridiron.
“When A.J. ran the fade, I turned around and I tried to start to running and my legs just came from up under me,” Haden said. “At the very, very end, that’s when I started feeling it. Especially the longer the drives started going, my legs started getting a little tired.
“You can’t go as hard as we go every single play like that at home. There’s just no way you can push yourself to do that. If you’re in a fight, then stuff happens that you’re not even used to. So that’s basically what it’s like. I pushed myself as much as I could without being on the football field, but once you get out there, it’s a whole different world. Everything is totally different.”
Haden, though, is confident he’ll be in top form for the entire game Sunday.
“Yeah, 60 minutes,” Haden said. “I’m playing every snap, so I’m gonna be OK.”
Starting wide receiver Greg Little did not practice Thursday because he was sent home from the team’s headquarters with the flu, a team spokesman said. Little attended meetings and had “a productive morning” before leaving, Shurmur said through the spokesman.
Left guard Jason Pinkston (illness), linebacker Scott Fujita (neck/shoulder) and cornerback Dimitri Patterson (ankle) didn’t practice, either. Fujita won’t practice this week, Jauron said, and rookie James-Michael Johnson is expected to start in his place Sunday. Patterson is expected to remain sidelined, too.
Rookie wide receiver Travis Benjamin (hamstring) was among the players who were limited, but he said he expects to play Sunday. Still, Childress said undrafted rookie wide receiver Josh Cooper will “remain involved” in the offense.
Defensive tackle Phil Taylor still hasn’t returned to practice, even though Shurmur said Wednesday it’ll happen “pretty soon.” Taylor has spent all season on the physically unable to perform list with a torn left pectoral muscle he suffered in May.
The Browns elected linebacker D’Qwell Jackson as their NFL Players Association player representative. They chose quarterback Colt McCoy and cornerback Sheldon Brown as alternates. … NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith stopped by the Browns’ training facility Thursday for a “usual team visit,” a union spokesman said.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com.