Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden recently talked up perhaps his most intriguing target, second-year receiver Josh Gordon, who caught 50 passes for 805 yards and five touchdowns in his rookie season after the Browns took in the 2012 supplemental draft.
"He's a guy that has the ability to be a top-three receiver in this league," Weeden said after his team's practice on Thursday. "He has big-play capabilities. He can run by guys. He can do so many different things. He's got a ton of ability. I'm glad he's on our side."
Weeden will have to wait a bit longer than he would have liked to find out just how good Gordon can be. As first reported by ESPN Cleveland's Tony Grossi, Gordon has been suspended for the first two games of the 2013 season, and fined the first four games, for a violation of the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Grossi also reported that the suspension would have been longer but for the fact that collegiate violations of substance abuse policies can't be factored in to NFL suspensions.
In a statement, Gordon said that he had strep throat in February, and took a cough medicine that he did not know contained codeine, which is prohibited per NFL rules.
"Policy terms are strict about unintentional ingestion, but NFL has not imposed the maximum punishment in light of the facts of my case," Gordon said. "Therefore, I have chosen to be immediately accountable for the situation. I sincerely apologize for the impact on my team, coaches, & Browns fans. I look forward to working hard in training camp and pre-season and contributing immediately when I return in week three."
Gordon could have been suspended four games for the violation.
“Obviously we are all disappointed in this news," Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski said in his own statement. "In our short time with Josh, he has done everything that we’ve asked him to do and he has exhibited substantial improvement. We believe that he will continue to work diligently through training camp and the preseason. I am confident that others will step up in his absence.”
Gordon was suspended from the Baylor squad before the 2011 season after a marijuana arrest and a history failed drug tests, which denied him the opportunity to catch a bunch of passes from Robert Griffin III in RG3's defining college season. He transferred to Utah, sat out the season, and was taken by the Browns in July, 2012, in a move that cost Cleveland its 2013 second-round pick.
"Despite everything I've been through, despite being a kid with a spotty background, the Cleveland Browns stuck their neck out and risked taking me and put their faith and belief in me, and I won't let them down," Gordon said in a phone interview with the Cleveland media on the day the Browns took a chance on him. "I'm grateful, and I know I can't go back to being the person I used to be."
It's not known what substance got Gordon in trouble, but this isn't a good sign. At the 2012 Gatorade Sports Star of the Year banquet, Griffin was asked about Gordon's future by myself and Y! Sports colleague Mike Silver, and his response seemed uncertain at best.
"He's been a kid that's been in a bunch of unfortunate situations," Griffin said, "and he knows that he was the reason that those [situations] happened. So I think any team that gets him, of course they're gonna feel like they're rolling the dice on the kid. I think that in the end, he'll be successful if he wants to be successful. That's all on him. And he knows that. He knows he's used up all his chances and everybody's watching him."