BEREA: Browns coach Pat Shurmur pulled Josh Gordon aside to give him advice about running routes and wide receivers coach Mike Wilson offered some tips more than once.
Gordon debuted with the Browns on Wednesday afternoon as training camp opened with rookies, quarterbacks and a few low-profile veterans practicing. From start to finish, Gordon was in the spotlight. The coaching staff is clearly focused on getting him up to speed, hoping he can make an impact this year.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Gordon has to learn how to run routes in the West Coast offense, fine-tune his techniques and adjust to a new playbook, but he also needs to stay out of trouble to ensure a successful career.
Gordon told reporters he failed a marijuana test at Utah after failing two previous marijuana tests at Baylor. He was suspended indefinitely by Baylor after the second failed test last summer, forcing his transfer to Utah.
Still, the Browns gambled on Gordon by selecting him in the second round of the NFL’s supplemental draft on July 12. He vowed to reward the organization for its leap of faith by staying on the right path.
“Yeah, there was a failed test [at Utah],” Gordon said. “But [it’s] definitely something I want to get past. Coming out here, I have a new experience, a new foundation to get started and I don’t really plan on looking back in the past anymore. I only look toward my future.
“Seeing as I’m already a guy with a spotty background, it would make no sense to go back to doing the stuff that I was doing. I mean I have no thoughts of ever trying to be that person or be the bad guy that everybody was expecting. I don’t want to be that person.”
General Manager Tom Heckert said he grilled Gordon about his past before the supplemental draft. Gordon responded by telling Heckert everything he felt he needed to hear.
“I had to explain my story to everybody multiple times, convince them, try to instill as much trust in them as I could with myself and my character and the way I want them to see me as a changed individual,” Gordon said. … “I’m definitely a changed person. The things that happened were such a long time ago, and the fact that there’s this many people in such a prestigious organization like this, putting their jobs and their necks out on the line for a guy like me, it says a lot about them and their character and I just want to meet them halfway on that agreement.
‘‘And if they’re going to be willing to do this for me, I just want to be willing to reciprocate.”
Shurmur said he’s confident Gordon will redeem himself.
“When we go through the process of deciding that we are going to draft this player, we have to come to the conclusion that we feel like this is behind him,” Shurmur said. “Now I will say this and it may apply to you, me, everybody, people have things that happen in their background, some adversity, and I think it’s fair to say that if they can overcome that it makes them stronger in some ways.
“We anticipate that this will not be an issue. We are going to watch it closely, and I think he understands how important it is to be a good teammate and be a good pro. That being said, I hope we don’t have to discuss it anymore.”
If Gordon proves Shurmur right, the chances of him making an immediate impact for the Browns will likely increase.
“I definitely feel like I can help this year,” said Gordon, who caught a handful of passes and dropped one Wednesday.
However, it could be an uphill battle. He practiced last season at Utah but didn’t play in any games because of NCAA transfer rules, so he’ll need to play catch-up, especially after missing organized team activities and minicamps in the spring.
“From what I can tell already, he is a quick learner,” Shurmur said.
“We’ve kind of amped it up for him so we could get him going quickly. It’s obvious to me that he understands how to play the position. He gets lined up well, understands coverage adjustments. It’s just a matter of him getting familiar with our terminology, so we’ll see. We’ll see how quickly he can do it, and we’ll throw him in with the rest of the guys and I think it will be obvious to all of us.”
As a sophomore at Baylor in 2010, Gordon had 42 receptions for 714 yards and seven touchdowns. During his pro day on July 10, he posted a time of 4.52 seconds in the 40-yard dash and finished the workout despite pulling his left quadriceps, which has since prompted him to take “baby steps” as he progresses toward a full recovery.
In other words, Gordon has the physical tools to fulfill Heckert’s expectations by becoming a bona fide No. 1 receiver.
Now he must make wise decisions if he wants to live up to his potential.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at https://ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/browns.abj.