Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, who hasn’t played in the NFL since 2014, was conditionally reinstated by the league Wednesday. The Cleveland player had been on an indefinite suspension for violations of the NFL’s substance-abuse and personal-conduct policies.
“We’ve been informed of the league’s decision to reinstate Josh,” Browns Executive Vice President Sashi Brown said in a statement. “The personal well-being of all our players is of the utmost importance to us. We respect and commend Josh for taking the steps necessary to have the opportunity to return to the league. Josh will be in our building in the coming days and we look forward to having him back and sitting with him to discuss his future on our team.”
The NFL announced that, effective immediately, Gordon was eligible “to attend meetings, engage in conditioning work and individual workouts” with the Browns. While “subject to compliance with clinical and other requirements,” Gordon will be able to practice with the team beginning Nov. 20 while placed on the commissioner’s exempt list. The Browns may activate him on Nov. 27 or keep him on the exempt list for one more week.
That time frame means that Gordon, 26, could potentially be on the field for the Browns’ Week 13 game at the Los Angeles Chargers. The 0-8 team could certainly use some help at wide receiver, although 2016 first-round pick Corey Coleman, who has been out since Week 2 with a broken hand, could return in Week 11.
Wednesday’s announcement came after Gordon met with league officials that morning at the NFL’s New York headquarters. Earlier in the month, he spoke in a video about his substance-abuse problems, saying he’d been a frequent user of alcohol, as well as “Xanax on many occasions, cocaine several occasions, marijuana most of my life, codeine, cough syrup.”
“I need to live out my amends. I need to try to make right for all my past transgressions and mistakes and show and prove I can be a better person, I can be a better man,” Gordon, who was coming out of rehab, said at the time. “Somebody who is accountable, reliable, because I know what’s on the other side of that. If given the opportunity, I believe I can prove my worth.”
Taken in the 2012 supplemental draft, after a college career that included an arrest for marijuana possession while at Baylor, Gordon showed promise as a Cleveland rookie, then burst into national prominence in 2013. After sitting out the first two weeks following a positive test for codeine, he racked up a league-leading 1,646 receiving yards, with nine touchdowns, in just 14 games.
However, a DUI charge led to a 10-game suspension in 2014, and in December of that year, Gordon missed a team flight for its final game of the season after partying the night before. The NFL then imposed a season-long ban on the receiver, which was extended through 2016 as he checked into a rehab facility. The NFL denied Gordon’s petition for reinstatement in May but was apparently convinced that, this time, he is ready to return to football.
“As emphasized at today’s meeting, everyone — including Josh’s teammates and coaches, the Browns’ ownership and organization, the Program professionals and all of us at the league office — want him to have every opportunity to resume his career and to be successful in the NFL,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “Whether that happens, however, at the end of the day will depend on Josh. His commitment to sobriety and to reaching his goals in football and beyond will determine his success. It ultimately is up to Josh.”
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