BEREA: When the Browns part with Josh Gordon, it’ll just be a formality, and coach Hue Jackson spoke Friday as if the organization is ready to move on.
“I think what we need to do is just close that chapter right now,” Jackson said. “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.”
Gordon, a troubled former All-Pro wide receiver, announced Thursday he’s stepping away from his comeback attempt with the Browns to enter inpatient rehabilitation. He has been suspended for 30 of the past 35 games for recurring violations of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. He had been scheduled to return from a four-game ban next week and play Oct. 9 against the New England Patriots until his latest setback occurred.
“I wasn’t stunned. I had lost a sister this summer to a heroin overdose,” Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins said of his sister, Lucia Young, who died in June at age 30. “She had been clean for two to three years, doing an incredible job. Talked to her regularly, but the one relapse cost her her life. It was something I didn’t see coming, and it kind of opens your eyes up to what addiction is like.
“It’s not a black-and-white situation. It’s not cut and dry, and it’s important for Josh to take this step and try and figure it out. It’s a hard road, and he understands that. But football isn’t important right now.”
Jackson said he talked to Gordon “several times” about his decision to enter rehab.
Gordon, 25, has received countless chances to redeem himself from multiple Browns regimes. But the group led by Jackson, head of football operations Sashi Brown and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta ultimately plans to sever ties with Gordon.
Jackson was asked why the Browns are moving on from Gordon when rehab is considered a positive step.
“My goal is to make sure that we take care of the players that are here and the players that are practicing and working,” Jackson said. “I care about everybody. I think that’s the seat I sit in. But at the same time, he’s not here. That’s why we wished him well and want the best for him. I think the most important thing I can do is make sure ... that our focus and our attention to details is right.”
The Browns thought they had the support system in place to help Gordon overcome his off-field problems. They believed his ability to stay with the team during his four-game suspension would make a difference. But it wasn’t enough.
“None of that matters right now. He’s not [here],” Jackson said. “I’m not going to answer any more Josh Gordon comments or questions. I’m done with it. I’m going to coach our team that’s here, and that’s what I want to do. So no more questions about Josh Gordon.”
Gordon, who led the NFL with 1,646 receiving yards in 2013, performed like an elite playmaker in the preseason, and the organization was giddy about his opportunity to play this season. However, it was all a tease.
“The personal side is more important,” Hawkins said. “I love football as much as anybody else and Josh is one of the best talents, up there with the best talent, that I’ve ever seen up close and personal with a receiver.
“But it’s still secondary. Him being a good receiver isn’t going to save his life 20 years from now. Him coming back to help the Cleveland Browns in 2016 isn’t going to help him in 2025 if he’s still dealing with these same issues, so I’m sincere in [saying] what he’s doing is important. I pray for the best for him, and I’m here for him no matter what.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.