Troubled wide receiver Josh Gordon is back with the Cleveland Browns.
There are reasons to be cautious and skeptical, of course. Gordon’s history of missed opportunities and suspensions under the NFL’s substance abuse policy ensures that. But is there any chance that he can get it right this time? What if he stays on the field and regains anything resembling the form that once made him among the league’s most productive and promising pass catchers?
That would be the sort of storybook ending that has been so elusive for Gordon and for the franchise that employs him.
“As I humbly return to being a member of this team with an opportunity to get back to playing this game I love, I realize in order for me to reach my full potential my primary focus must remain on my sobriety and mental well-being,” Gordon wrote on Twitter.
Gordon had been absent from the Browns since the start of training camp, reportedly to seek additional counseling for anxiety and mental health.
It’s easy to forget how great Gordon was. In 2013, his second NFL season, he had 87 catches for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns for the Browns. It was one of the best seasons ever for an NFL wide receiver, and Gordon did it in only 14 games. He has not been the same player since, mostly because of his inability to remain eligible to play.
But the Browns keep giving him chances, still hoping he’ll return to being that player. He is not yet cleared to practice, but the Browns expect him to participate in team meetings and conditioning activities, then gradually work his way back to full participation. They have not ruled out Gordon being ready for the start of the regular season.
It might not be correct to call this Gordon’s final NFL chance, given his immense talent. But he’s 27, and time is at least beginning to run short. He returns to a team attempting to take a step toward respectability on the heels of managing one victory over the past two seasons. John Dorsey, the Browns’ first-year general manager, used the bevy of draft choices that he inherited from the previous regime as he reconstructed the roster.
Baker Mayfield is the quarterback of the future. Tyrod Taylor is on hand as the placeholder QB until Mayfield is ready. Jarvis Landry was added to be the centerpiece wide receiver.
But there’s still room for Gordon to contribute. It’s all up to him now.
“This has by no means been an easy road,” Gordon said in his statement, in which he thanked the league, the NFL Players Association, the Browns and others, “and I’m extremely grateful to have all of you in my life.”
Read more on the NFL: