We learned yesterday that Browns receiver Josh Gordon, facing a year-long suspension after violating the league’s substance abuse policy, will be able to appeal at a hearing in late July. If the ban is upheld, Gordon, whose reinstatement would come only at the discretion of commissioner Roger Goodell, would be barred from interacting with his teammates or showing up at Cleveland’s facilities. This loss of a “support system,” writes Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, has some close to Gordon worried that the 23-year-old might never make it back to the NFL.
Sources close to Gordon draw parallels to Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon, who was banned from the first four games of 2013, and then suspended indefinitely following Week 8 after violating the substance abuse policy; he is not expected to reinstated for the 2014 season. The fear is that without the encouragement offered by fellow Browns, as well Cleveland’s coaching staff, Gordon won’t be able to properly manage his life decisions, forcing Goodell to conclude that the young pass-catcher is not prepared to re-enter the league.
There is the possibility that this situation could be nullified by an agreement resulting in a reduced suspension. Gordon was originally suspended for four games last season, and although he was ultimately docked four game checks, he only missed playing in two contests. However, Cabot has previously reported that even if Godron’s ban was reduced to something like eight games, he would not be permitted to engage with the team while he was banished.
Without Gordon, the Browns will look to implement a run-heavy offense under new coordinator Kyle Shanahan, utilizing their standout offensive line to block for new additions Ben Tate and Terrance West. However, if Gordon is allowed to return to the field in 2014, Cleveland’s offense would be able to feature a true No. 1 receiver who could garner much of the defense’s focus. In just 14 games last year, Gordon led the league with 1,646 receiving yards, catching 87 balls and nine touchdowns. The receivers on the Browns depth chart behind Gordon include Miles Austin, Andrew Hawkins, Nate Burleson, and Anthony Armstrong.