BEREA: Josh Gordon isn’t expected to play for the Browns ever again after the latest disappointing detour in his career.
The ultra-talented but troubled wide receiver announced Thursday he’s stepping away from his comeback attempt to enter inpatient rehabilitation. Gordon has been suspended for 30 of the past 35 games for recurring violations of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, but he had been scheduled to return from a four-game ban next week.
“After careful thought and deep consideration I’ve decided that I need to step away from pursuing my return to the Browns and my football career to enter an in-patient rehabilitation facility,” Gordon, an All-Pro selection in 2013 who led the NFL with 1,646 receiving yards that season, said in a prepared statement released by the Browns.
“This is the right decision for me and one that I hope will enable me to gain full control of my life and continue on a path to reach my full potential as a person. I appreciate the support of the NFL, NFLPA, the Browns, my teammates, my agent and the community through this extremely challenging process.”
Gordon, 25, has received countless chances to redeem himself from multiple Browns regimes. The current group isn’t expected to give him another shot because it can’t trust him to get back on the field and stay on it.
Coach Hue Jackson, head of football operations Sashi Brown and many players repeatedly insisted Gordon had been doing well off the field and praised him for changing.
When reports emerged last month about the Browns receiving trade offers for Gordon, Brown stressed the team wasn’t looking to deal him. And just last week, Jackson declared Gordon was still doing well.
“I have nothing but great things to say about Josh,” Jackson said Sept. 21.
Gordon’s problems, though, obviously weren’t behind him.
The Browns became aware of Gordon’s latest setback early this week.
Because he’s in stage three of the substance-abuse program, he’s subject to as many as 10 NFL-administered drug tests a month, though it’s unclear whether he failed one recently. The Browns are not aware of a specific incident such as an arrest that led Gordon to rehab.
Gordon had been attending meetings and working out at Browns headquarters throughout his suspension. The team thought staying in a routine would help him during the suspension, but apparently it wasn’t enough.
“We support Josh in taking this step to seek additional help and treatment,” Brown said in a prepared statement. “His singular focus must be on his own health. We want nothing more than for Josh to be successful personally and professionally and will not comment on his status with the organization at this time.”
Playmaker on the field
The NFL banished Gordon from the league for the entire 2015 season. Then his application for reinstatement was denied in April after Fox Sports reported Gordon failed an NFL-administered drug test in early March because the sample tested positive for marijuana and a diluting substance. Finally on July 25, Commissioner Roger Goodell reinstated Gordon into the league on a conditional basis and suspended him for the first four regular-season games of 2016.
After sitting out the early stages of training camp and the first two preseason games with a quadriceps injury, Gordon compiled five catches for 116 yards and a touchdown in the final two exhibition games. He showed he’s still a dominant playmaker in preseason game No. 3 by hauling in two passes for 87 yards and a touchdown Aug. 26 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Gordon would have been eligible to practice again beginning Monday and play Oct. 9 against the New England Patriots. He hasn’t appeared in a regular-season game since Dec. 21, 2014.
The Browns began to envision Gordon and wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, who had eight catches for 144 yards Sunday in a 30-24 overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins, tormenting defenses together. Pryor and left tackle Joe Thomas spoke recently about the exciting possibility.
Now there’s no end in sight for Gordon’s absence from the field. He remains on the reserve/suspended by the commissioner list.
“Our concern is with Josh’s well-being,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. “We will decline comment on his status with the team.”
Third time in rehab
This is the third known rehab stint for Gordon. In 2014, he checked himself into rehab for two weeks after being arrested for driving while impaired. Earlier this year, Browns special adviser Jim Brown said Gordon had been in rehab again.
Gordon’s latest trip to rehab came on the heels of him becoming entangled in a paternity case.
Gordon attended a hearing at Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court on Sept. 21 after a judge issued an arrest warrant for him because he failed to provide a paternity test. He submitted a DNA test after the hearing, and the warrant was withdrawn. Another hearing is scheduled for Nov. 8.
Paternity test positive
Christina Lockhart of Maple Heights filed a complaint July 2, 2015, in juvenile court saying Gordon is the father of her 1-year-old daughter and no one else is presumed to be the father, according to court records. Lockhart is on welfare and seeks child support.
Cleveland.com reported Thursday that attorney Joseph Stafford, who represents Lockhart, said the DNA results showed with 99.9 percent certainty that Gordon is the girl’s father.
It’s unknown whether Gordon was referring to the case when he tweeted the following Thursday after he announced he would enter rehab: “Under some pressure & stress recently, had to take a time out for myself. Sometimes you have to do what’s best for you. Thank u @nfl @Browns.
Then he tweeted, “See ya soon” with a thumbs up illustration.
Unfortunately for Gordon and the Browns, he probably won’t be seen in their uniform again.
If Gordon were to miraculously come back this season, he’d be a restricted free agent in March and an unrestricted free agent after the 2017 season. But the ins and outs of his contract with the Browns are probably meaningless because they have no patience left for him.
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.