PHOENIX: The Browns certainly aren’t counting on suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon to complete a comeback, but if the NFL reinstates the 2013 All-Pro selection, the franchise will have a decision to make.
The organization could refuse to budge from the stance it took in September, when it made it clear Gordon would never play for the Browns again. In that event, the Browns would try to trade Gordon and then release him if they couldn’t find a partner.
But the Browns also could reconsider the position they took in the fall and open the door for Gordon to return.
Browns head of football operations Sashi Brown acknowledged Gordon’s immense talent would still entice every team in the NFL, including the one with which he’s spent his entire professional career.
“Josh, assuming that he’d play at the level we started to see glimpses of last preseason and certainly when he was in the league before, would be a talent I think no team in the NFL would turn down if he got back in,” Brown said Tuesday night during the NFL owners meetings at the Arizona Biltmore hotel and resort. “Our decision with Josh is just understanding where he is in his process and being able to add him.
“But we’re not in a position at wide receiver to turn down a guy like Josh if we feel like he’s settled himself. Now, that’s a separate question, but Josh is going to have an opportunity to reapply to the NFL, and at that time, we’ll make a decision when we know what’s going on.”
Perhaps Brown’s comment was trade bait. The Browns wanted to trade Gordon’s rights last year before the NFL trade deadline on Nov. 1. If Gordon were reinstated, the Browns would hold his rights through the 2018 season. He would be a restricted free agent after the 2017 season and an unrestricted free agent after the 2018 season.
He reportedly applied for reinstatement into the NFL on March 1 and hopes the league delivers a ruling by late April or early May.
An NFL spokesman said Wednesday the league has no comment on Gordon’s status.
Gordon, 25, has missed 43 of the past 48 games because of recurring violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy. He hasn’t appeared in a regular-season game since Dec. 21, 2014, and it’s unknown whether Commissioner Roger Goodell will reinstate him.
He was on the verge of returning from a four-game suspension to play for the Browns on Oct. 9 against the New England Patriots when he announced Sept. 29 he would instead step away from his comeback attempt to enter inpatient rehabilitation.
Gordon’s third known trip to rehab lasted 30 days and began on the heels of him becoming entangled in a paternity case.
When he left the Browns in September, the organization made it clear it was done with him.
“I think what we need to do is just close that chapter right now,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said Sept. 30. “He’s doing what he needs to do, and we need to do what we need to do, which is continue to move forward.
“Obviously, Josh is not here and doing what he thinks he needs to do for his life, which we support 100 percent. And I think after today, today is really the last Josh Gordon comment I want to make about that. I think what’s best for our football team is that we move forward and move on. He’s not going to be with us, and we wish him well. But we’re moving forward. We’re going to move on.”
A reporter reminded Brown on Tuesday about Jackson’s strong comments.
“I’d have to go back and see the quotes,” Brown said. “But for us, we’re going to take the information we have at the time and go from there, and I think there’s some understanding and compassion and empathy for Josh or sympathy for Josh. But at the same time, we do have to focus on the guys on the roster. I think that’s more the nature of what Hue’s comments are, which is Josh had an opportunity, unfortunately it didn’t work out despite some of the efforts that were made by him and the organization, and we have to move on. We really don’t have a choice in that.”
So have the team’s feelings changed about Gordon since his departure in September?
“Josh is a guy we understood in September, came in, worked hard, practiced hard, obviously had the setback and didn’t get fully admitted back into the league,” Brown said. “We enjoyed the access we had to Josh. It allowed Hue in particular to establish a relationship with him. Me and Josh were able to spend a lot of time together as well.
“So we’re rooting for Josh to get himself to a place where he can rejoin the league and in the meantime straighten out any other things in his life that might be an impediment to that or anything else. We’ll take it step by step. We really have very little insight into what the league provides, and through that process that’s something they do with the counselors that are independent. And once we get some indication of what’s going to happen, we’ll make a decision.”
ESPN reported last week Gordon has been training under former Olympian sprinter-turned-speed coach Tim Montgomery.
Montgomery was stripped of medals and records in 2005 for using performance-enhancing drugs. Later, he spent more than four years in prison as a result of check fraud and dealing heroin.
Now Montgomery is committed to helping athletes at NUMA Speed in Gainesville, Fla., including those trying to turn their lives around.