BEREA – Josh Gordon feels he owed the Browns and their fans an apology and admits he’s still trying to regain the trust of the front office.
But he said the two-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy was out of his control.
Gordon spoke to reporters Monday for the first time since his suspension was announced June 7. He referred to the statement he released at the time, which blamed the failed test on codeine that was in cough medicine prescribed by a doctor.
“The fact that it happened, it was beyond me,” Gordon said Monday, three days before the start of training camp. “It’s one of those things you just really can’t control.”
The NFL doesn’t release the substance involved in failed tests. Gordon failed multiple tests for marijuana in college and was dismissed from the team at Baylor, so his codeine explanation wasn’t universally accepted.
“It was nothing of the sort of recreational use,” he insisted.
Gordon, 22, is permitted to practice during training camp and play in the preseason, but he will miss the opener Sept. 8 against Miami and Week 2 in Baltimore. He was also fined four game checks that will cost him $148,894 of his $632,802 base salary.
Gordon (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) is the Browns’ most talented receiver and best deep threat.
“I need to apologize to the team, the Browns fans, the coaching staff here, my family and friends,” he said. “This hurt a lot of people.”
Gordon said he talked with coach Rob Chudzinski but hadn’t met with CEO Joe Banner.
“But I was told by other people that definitely they’re supporting me, in my corner,” Gordon said. “That’s good to know. I’m definitely still trying to regain their trust and our front office’s trust, our team’s trust, just to prove to them that they can count on me.”
Gordon was drafted in the second round of the 2012 supplemental draft by former general manager Tom Heckert. Banner has questioned the value of the pick, despite Gordon totaling 50 catches for 805 yards, a 16.1 average and five touchdowns in 16 games and 13 starts as a rookie.
“Obviously I’m disappointed in the situation,” Chudzinski said. “It’s important that Josh understands what my expectations are. I’ve talked to him about that. He understands accountability and I expect him to work and do everything he can to be the very best player he can be.”
“Accountability is a big issue,” Gordon said. “We’re looking forward to the things we can do beyond this point. Can’t really sit back and just think about the past and things that’s happened.
“My priorities are definitely in order. I still got a job to come out and do every day.”
His priorities were questioned by former Browns center LeCharles Bentley after Gordon and fellow receiver Greg Little celebrated with LeBron James after the Heat won the NBA title. Gordon also angered some Cleveland fans by tweeting his desire for Miami to win.
“I definitely want to apologize for that,” Gordon said. “I wasn’t really thinking about it at all. I wasn’t sure of the severity of it. It’s such a huge deal out here. The fans of Cleveland definitely take their sports seriously. It was a blank-mind moment.”
Gordon doesn’t regret the decision to party with James, but wishes he had handled it better.
“It could have been done an easier way, a way to clash with the people less,” he said.
The day before the suspension was announced, quarterback Brandon Weeden said Gordon had the talent to be a top-three receiver in the league. Despite the setback, Gordon believes he’s ready to take the first step.
“Definitely I feel as though I am ready to be a No. 1 receiver (on a team),” he said. “It’s what I’ve worked hard for. I’m not ready to be anything less than that.”
Veterans Davone Bess and David Nelson and second-year speedster Travis Benjamin are expected to see increased time in Gordon’s absence. The Browns have only one win in the opener since returning in 1999.
“Obviously I’m disappointed, but the nice thing about this team is we have guys that can step in and make plays,” Weeden said. “I have a lot of confidence in all the receivers that are going to be there Week 1.
“Good teams find a way, when they have stuff that goes on, guys step in and make plays. I’m confident in the guys we have to get that done and when Josh comes back in Week 3, we’ll welcome him back and he’ll continue to make us a better football team.”
Weeden has talked to Gordon about the suspension but is ready to move on.
“He’s a mature guy. He knows he made a mistake,” Weeden said. “But I’m not going to beat a dead horse. There’s no reason for me to harp on it. I just told him this team needs him and pretty much left it at that. I don’t mean to put words in his mouth, but he’ll learn from his mistake.”
Gordon entered camp last season remorseful and thankful the Browns took a chance on him after the failed marijuana tests. He was asked if he’s in the same spot a year later.
“I really don’t feel that way,” he said. “I’m still working towards it but that’s something that’s in the past.
“But it’s still going to gloom over me for a long time. I still have a long way to go, a lot to prove to the fans here. This is another obstacle in my way of getting there.
“I’m really looking forward to Week 3 when I can come back and contribute to the team. Until then, I’ll be out here every day, working out with the team in training camp, help motivate these guys to get ready for the season.”