BEREA: His Browns teammates may feel betrayed that he continues to put his selfish pleasures over what they are trying to accomplish together.
The coaches and front office may be dismayed at how long it is taking him to grow up.
Fans may be fed up, especially those who don’t get three strikes before they’re out of their jobs.
But none of those are reasons to cut Josh Gordon.
In fact, I can see no logical reason to release the record-setting Pro Bowl wide receiver.
The Browns should ride out what looks like Gordon’s inevitable suspension for another violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy, even if he’s banned for the season, and pray that someone can get through to him.
Pray that someone can make him realize the magnitude of his talent and the rewards it can bring — not just in the financial sense, but through the joy he can offer his community and the people in need he can touch.
Pray that he will someday value the camaraderie built through football over that of the so-called friends with whom he’s passing a joint.
Perhaps he never will, as Browns coach Mike Pettine said Tuesday.
“There has to be a willingness on the other side. Sometimes guys get the message too late,” said Pettine, who started in the NFL in 2002. “In all my time in the league, there’s always going to be a handful of guys that just don’t get it.”
If this were a player with average ability, he’d be gone by now. But Gordon’s 1,646 yards last season, when he bargained a suspension down to two games, were the 10th most in NFL history. His teammates know what the 6-foot-3, 225-pound receiver can do and how effortless he makes it look.
Free agent receiver Nate Burleson knows. Burleson spent two years in Minnesota with Randy Moss, an admitted marijuana user for years after he entered the league. Burleson played four seasons in Detroit with Calvin Johnson, another of the league’s elite receivers.
“You only get so many guys every few years that redefine the position, and he’s one of those guys,” Burleson said of Gordon on Tuesday. “He’s not your traditional receiver. There’s Calvin and there’s Randy — these guys were hit with that special stick, and God blessed them with attributes you can only create in video games.”
Pettine believes the Browns have the support system Gordon needs, including trainer Joe Sheehan and his staff, who keep a pulse on the locker room, and newly hired director of player engagement Jamil Northcutt, whom Pettine said is known for “his ability to relate to players and reach all of them.”
But during organized team activities Tuesday, Gordon’s body language conveyed unhappiness. After participating in a play, he walked back so slowly to join the rest of the team that once he was nearly in the line of fire on the next snap. His best friend, Greg Little, was released May 16 and Gordon looked lonely, although he eventually did chat with Andrew Hawkins. During special teams drills, Gordon moved to the other end of the field to stretch alone.
Perhaps he senses the league’s impending announcement of his penalty. Perhaps he feels ostracized. Or perhaps there was no one he wanted to spend a few moments talking with.
Burleson might be one who could help. Burleson said he’d organized a wide receivers’ dinner for Tuesday night.
“It’s something I wanted to do,” Burleson said. I’ve been here for 12 years and I know that when you get to take the pads off, guys unveil themselves a little bit more.”
Before that gathering, Burleson said he’d talked to Gordon only briefly.
“One thing I’ve learned is you take your time and you kind of earn your place in relationships,” Burleson said. “You can’t overstep your boundaries.”
Burleson is by no means Gordon’s peer athletically. Last season, Gordon’s receiving yardage was just over 100 yards shy of Burleson’s four-year total in Seattle. But Gordon needs a friend and mentor, someone who can make him appreciate his gifts and convince him change is possible.
Perhaps that won’t be Burleson. If not, the Browns must keep Gordon, explore every avenue to help him and hope he eventually realizes he needs help.
It’s much too soon to give up on a 23-year-old who was touched by God’s “special stick.” The Browns must wait and hope Gordon experiences a revelation to save his promising, yet fragile career.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.