CLEVELAND, Ohio – Josh Gordon returned to the Browns on Saturday with a vow to put his sobriety and mental well-being at the forefront.
Gordon, who’s been in a treatment program at the University of Florida, announced on Twitter Saturday that he’s back with the Browns, but that he must continue to work hard on staying clean and sober.
League spokesman Brian McCarthy told cleveland.com that Gordon’s return to the team is ‘part of the process. (He continues) to make progress. No timetable for the next steps.’’
He said Gordon’s treatment plan, which falls under the NFL’s policy on substances of abuse, is a collaborative effort on the part of the league, the Browns and Gordon and his representatives. The NFLPA is also kept apprised of the protocol.
Gordon, who’s been suspended for 56 of a possible 96 games, did not fail a test, and therefore is not facing another indefinite suspension.
He’ll be moved from the "did not report’’ list to the active/non-football injury list and will count against the roster. The Browns must clear a spot for him, and he can return to practice as soon as he’s medically cleared.
McCarthy said Gordon can attend all meetings and conditioning sessions, but can’t practice yet. He can watch practice, but not participate. If all goes well, he can be on the field for the opener against the Steelers Sept. 9th. It’s not yet known if he’ll play in the dress rehearsal game Thursday night against the Eagles.
Haslam alluded to Gordon’s addiction struggles when discussing his absence
Gordon’s return does not preclude the Browns from signing three-time Pro Bowler Dez Bryant, who visited the team on Thursday and Friday. Talks with Bryant are ongoing, and coach Hue Jackson said Friday night that it "was a good visit.’’
Shortly after Gordon tweeted his return, the Browns issued a statement from him and general manager John Dorsey.
"First off, we are pleased for Josh,’’ Dorsey said. "His overall health and well-being is what is most important. We commend Josh for his hard work, commitment and focus on becoming the best version of himself. We are glad Josh has reached a point where he can return to our organization, be in our building and be around his teammates.
"As he assimilates back to our team, Josh will initially participate in meetings and conditioning and will gradually resume all football activities as deemed appropriate.’’
Gordon, who’s been to inpatient rehab at least five times, agreed in his statement that his sobriety is paramount.
Dear Cleveland Browns and NFL family,
"Thank you for your love, support, and most importantly your patience as I took the time needed to ensure my overall mental and physical health.
"More specifically, I would like to thank the NFL, NFLPA, the entire Cleveland Browns organization, the University of Florida, and my friend and business manager Michael Johnson Jr. for playing such pivotal roles during this process. This has by no means been an easy road and I’m extremely grateful to have all of you in my life.
"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.
"Let’s get to work!
Gordon has struggled since middle school with substance abuse, and told GQ Magazine last season that he played every college and pro game either drunk or high before returning for the final five games of last season.
He had been suspended for 54 of his previous 59 games before returning last season, and 44 straight.
Gordon has admitted to using codeine, marijuana, Xanas and other drugs.
"Initially it started for me, [because of] a lot of childhood and adolescent trauma-based fear,’’ he told GQ. "I was using in my childhood. That environment brought me into that a lot sooner than a normal. …I didn’t want to feel anxiety, I didn’t want to feel fear.
"I didn’t plan on living to 18. Day-to-day life, what’s gonna happen next? So you self-medicate with Xanax, with marijuana, codeine–to help numb those nerves so you can just function every day. That became the norm from middle school to high school. So by the time I got into my 20s, I was on an accelerated pace.’’
Gordon recalled his first experience with Xanax in seventh grade.
"Truthfully, that’s where it started from for me,’’ he said. "The anxiety, the fitting in and stuff. Not being comfortable with who I was. Socially, I felt awkward, talking with people, telling them where I was living. Other kids have nicer stuff than you, “you’re poor” type of shit. A lot of inadequacy, I think, is the reason why I initially got into it.’’
In addition to his addiction struggles, Gordon is involved in a bitter child support battle with Christina Lockhart, the mother of his three-year-old daughter.
Court records show that Gordon had a hearing just days before he announced he would miss the start of camp to work on his overall health.
Gordon and the Browns know that life must taken in one-day-at-a-time-increments for the former All-Pro wideout.