Given his many suspensions for violations of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, we didn’t need Josh Gordon to tell us that he had problems controlling his urges to use drugs and alcohol. Now set to return to the league with a newfound commitment to sobriety, though, the Cleveland Browns wide receiver is sharing a tale of just how extensive his usage was.
Gordon said in a recent interview, he never played a college or NFL game without first smoking marijuana or drinking hard alcohol. “I used to make a ritual of it before every game,” he said in a story published Monday by GQ.
“If I had already been drug tested that week, or the day before the game, I knew I had a couple days to buy to clean my system,” Gordon continued. “Even before I was getting tested for alcohol, prior to my DWI in 2014, I would take the biggest bong rip I could. …
“I would have these little pre-made shots. I used to love Grand Marnier. I could drink it down smooth. I could usually drink a lot of it. But if it wasn’t that, it might be a whiskey or something. And I would drink probably like half a glass, or a couple shots to try and warm my system up, basically. To get the motor running. That’s what I would do for games.”
Gordon said that he was doing this even in 2013, when he became the first NFL player with back-to-back 200-yard games and led the league in receiving yards. The latter feat was all the more remarkable not only because it was just his second year in the NFL, but because he began the season with a two-game suspension.
That ban marked the first of Gordon’s NFL substance-abuse violations, and there would be many more to come, plus a one-game suspension handed to him by the Browns for a violation of team rules. The talented but troubled wide receiver wound up playing in just five games in 2014, and then none at all in 2015 and 2016, as he underwent treatments at rehab facilities and took a couple of unsuccessful shots at getting reinstated by the league.
This time, however, the NFL is encouraged that Gordon really does have a different approach to life, although he still has to prove it. In announcing his conditional reinstatement last week, the league said that Gordon would first be restricted to attending meetings and individual workouts with the Browns; if all goes well, he can participate in team practices beginning Nov. 20 and be activated to the roster Nov. 27.
“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 last week. “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.”
“The past times, every time I would try to stop, it would be for the wrong reason,” Gordon told GQ. “It’d be a publicity stunt; it’d be for somebody else; it’d be for the coach, or whomever thought it was in my best interest to try to do that. Last time, I wanted to do it to save my career. Just for the job. [Now] I have the positive reinforcement and motivation of having a daughter and stuff like that, but kids can’t save you in that aspect. Only thing saving me at this point and time, and the difference between now and then, is that I’m doing it for myself. And I want something more for myself. I’m trying to do it for myself.”
Gordon said that he began using in the seventh grade, as a response to “a lot of childhood and adolescent trauma-based fear.” By the time he got to the NFL, his habits included leaving the team hotel on game days to “go home, eat breakfast, do my little ritual, whatever it may be, some weed, some alcohol, and then go to the game.”
“And then,” he added, “I’d definitely be partying after every game, win or lose. Every game.”
Browns Coach Hue Jackson said Monday that he wanted to talk with Gordon about his revelations, which included telling GQ, “A bunch of guys smoke weed before the game.” However, Jackson said that Gordon would be “welcomed back here,” as long as the 26-year-old can “can do the things that we do as football team members and conduct himself the right way.”
“I think he was cleansing himself of his past, and I get that a little bit, but again, I think he said what he felt he needed to say,” Jackson said of Gordon’s admissions.
Gordon said talking openly about his past was “beneficial” and “therapeutic” for him. “The more I get it out, the more I feel better about it,” he said. “The more that other people know, the more I feel at ease walking the streets, without this target on my back. Without having to look over my shoulder. It’s for me.”
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