By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: Coming off a two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon realizes that he has essentially run out of second chances.
Gordon blamed prescription cough medicine that contained codeine for triggering a failed drug test in the offseason. He also failed three marijuana tests in college before the Browns drafted him in the second round of last year’s supplemental draft, and he believes he’ll face a full season banishment from the league if he slips up one more time.
“I think that’s what it is,” Gordon said Monday. “I believe so.”
Gordon knows one more strike could cost him his career.
“I feel like it’s a last-chance opportunity for the league,” Gordon said. “Nobody wants a problematic type of person in their program, in their organization because of how it perceives to be. I definitely want to stay away from any controversy as long as I can, forever. That’s definitely my No. 1 priority.”
Gordon was granted a roster exemption Monday from Commissioner Roger Goodell, so the Browns don’t need to make a move to create room for him until Wednesday.
Gordon spent the past couple of weeks working out and attending meetings at the team’s training facility. He also has volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club on Broadway Avenue in Cleveland during his downtime.
Meanwhile, Gordon hasn’t been allowed to practice the past two weeks or play in the first two games. The offense produced only one touchdown during his suspension, and the Browns fell to 0-2.
“Just being taken away from it is a humbling experience for me,” Gordon said. “I found an appreciation for the game. The absence of it makes the heart grow fonder in a sense. That’s really what it’s about for me right now.”
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Gordon, the team’s No. 1 receiver, caught 50 passes for a team-high 805 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie.
Starting quarterback Brandon Weeden will likely miss the road game Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings (0-2), meaning either Jason Campbell or Brian Hoyer will probably start. Whoever is playing quarterback will certainly look to Gordon for help.
“He’s a huge difference,” Campbell said. “He’s a big target. He’s a big guy. He’s a big part of what we do offensively. Not having him out there definitely hurts a little bit because he is a big part of what we do. So it’ll be good to get him back, get him going, try to get him back into a rhythm.”
Coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner want to feature a vertical, downfield passing game, but the Browns have had just one play of more than 50 yards through two games. The next longest is 23 yards. Gordon averaged 46 yards on his touchdown receptions last season.
“He definitely adds another dimension of helping us stretch the field,” Campbell said. “But at the same time, there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
Gordon, 22, believes he can make a difference on the field.
“It’s definitely vital for me to come back and make as big an impact as I can, help out the team in any way possible,” Gordon said. “We know that’s a big deal to have that sense of urgency on offense to make some plays. That’s what I’m going to try to come back and help do.”
Gordon said Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown, the Browns’ special adviser, hasn’t talked to him about his off-field issues. His quest to redeem himself remains a work in progress.
Last week, Gordon was assessed $301 in fines and court costs for speeding violations. Gordon was charged Aug. 13 with driving 98 mph in a 60 mph zone and charged May 10 with driving 45 mph in a 25 mph zone.
“That’s something I have to deal with and a mistake I made,” Gordon said. “I definitely shouldn’t make [it] again.”
With his suspension finished, he’s looking for another fresh start.
“It’s a big deal,” Gordon said. “I know it was a looming type cloud just behind me of negativity, so I’m glad to be back on the field and hopefully more people can focus on that.”
Browns right guard Shawn Lauvao was in a single-vehicle accident Monday morning on Interstate 90 by Carnegie Avenue in Cleveland, but alcohol was not involved and Lauvao was not injured, team spokesman Zak Gilbert said.
Lauvao was heading to the team’s training facility about 7 a.m. Monday when he went the wrong way on a ramp closed for construction, tried to turn around and went over a curb and an embankment, Gilbert said. Lauvao’s car was stuck and later towed.
A spokesperson for the City of Cleveland’s office of communications referred questions regarding Lauvao to the Browns’ public relations department.
Lauvao spoke to reporters Monday afternoon in the locker room before they became aware of the incident.
Lauvao said he had been running the past few days as he tries to come back from his left high-ankle sprain, but he didn’t know whether he will practice Wednesday.
“I’m battling my butt off to come back,” Lauvao said. “I will see how it feels and do what they tell me to do.”
Lauvao suffered the injury during training camp Aug. 5. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on the ankle Aug. 9 and had bone and ligaments cleaned out.
In Lauvao’s absence, Oniel Cousins has started each of the first two games at right guard. He committed four penalties in the season opener, and the offensive line has allowed 11 sacks in two games.
“It’s tough,” Lauvao said. “I want to be out there with my guys, but right now I’m just doing the best I can to support them and cheer them on.”
Rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo was in the Browns’ 14-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday for 25-of-63 (35 percent) defensive snaps and 10 special-teams plays during his NFL regular-season debut.
Mingo missed the final two exhibition games and the season opener with a bruised lung he was diagnosed with Aug. 15.
“It took some time to get back in shape, but for the most part I’ve been feeling fine, no health-related problems,” Mingo said. “I’ve been running good, feeling good, breathing good.”
Mingo tallied a sack on his first play against the Ravens and added two solo tackles and a quarterback hurry. He also drew two holding penalties, one on defense and another on special teams.
After the second play from scrimmage, Browns nose tackle Phil Taylor drew a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty when he used his right hand to smack running back Ray Rice in the helmet.
“I think Ray Rice might have spit on him,” Browns linebacker Paul Kruger, who spent the past four seasons with the Ravens, said Monday. “Something transpired in that respect.
“We’ve got Phil’s back. He reacted I think pretty similar to the way everybody would react if that happened to you.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he was made aware of the suggestion that Rice spit on Taylor, but he couldn’t find any video evidence.
“I watched it,” Harbaugh said Monday during a news conference. “I didn’t see that on the tape at all.”
Browns assistant general manager Ray Farmer scouted the game Saturday between Alabama and Texas A&M, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King reported. Alabama won 49-42, even though Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel threw for 464 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions and ran for 98 yards. … Browns owner Jimmy Haslam was listed No. 369 on Forbes’ list of America’s 400 richest people. The magazine estimates his net worth at $1.45 billion. Forbes estimated Haslam’s net worth was $1.8 billion in March. Haslam’s family owns Pilot Flying J, the truck-stop empire being investigated by the FBI and Internal Revenue Service for fuel rebate fraud.
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.