BEREA – The downfield passing attack of new offensive coordinator Norv Turner has one play of more than 22 yards in two games.
The Browns are counting on receiver Josh Gordon to fix that.
“It’s definitely vital for me to come back and make as big an impact as I can, help out the team in any way possible,” he said Monday.
Gordon was suspended for the first two games for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy in the offseason.
He was reinstated Monday and will return to practice Wednesday. The Browns were given a temporary roster exemption by Commissioner Roger Goodell, so they don’t have to free a spot on the 53-man roster until Wednesday.
Gordon failed multiple marijuana tests at Baylor and was dismissed from the team. He acknowledged he’s in the stage of the NFL’s substance-abuse program where another violation of the policy will result in a one-year suspension.
“I think that’s what it is,” he said. “I believe so.
“I feel like it’s a last-chance opportunity (in) the league. Nobody just wants a problematic type of person in their program or their organization because of how they’re perceived to be. So I definitely want to stay away from controversy as long as I can, forever. That’s definitely my goal.
“No room for mistakes for me. It’s either get it right, or that’s it.”
Without their No. 1 receiver and best deep threat, the Browns scored one touchdown and 16 points in an 0-2 start. Gordon’s expected to step back into his starting spot, bumping Travis Benjamin back to the bench.
“Oh, he’s a huge difference,” said quarterback Jason Campbell, who could start Sunday in Minnesota if Brandon Weeden’s sprained thumb doesn’t cooperate. “He’s a big target, he’s a big guy, he’s a big part of what we do offensively.”
Gordon caught 50 passes last year as a rookie, averaging 16.1 yards and scoring five touchdowns. He isn’t bothered by the expectations surrounding his return.
“No pressure at all. Just go out there and play like I’ve been playing, the camaraderie of the team, make some big plays and hopefully everything gets back on track,” he said. “It’s not just about me, it’s about the team effort. A lot of guys have to put in the work for it. There’s a great deal of excitement for me to be back and I’m glad to be back.”
Gordon said he was humbled by the suspension. He spent Tuesdays volunteering at the Boys & Girls Club of Cleveland helping with homework, and Sundays watching the offense struggle.
“Just being taken away from the game is a humbling experience for me,” he said. “I found an appreciation for the game. The absence of it makes the heart grow fonder in a sense. That’s really what it’s about for me right now.”
Gordon didn’t want to play the what-if game and speculate if the Browns would have won with him on the field. But while he watched, he paid close attention to the men trying to fill in for him.
“I definitely look at where I would normally be at to see how I would run it as opposed to how they ran it,” he said. “I’m looking at it from a totally different point of view as a spectator now. It is a whole lot different. You could see the differences how you could have done something maybe better, maybe the same. You could see how that’s just an honest mistake or that’s a good play.”
A recent change in NFL policy allowed Gordon to remain with the team during the suspension. He couldn’t practice, but was able to attend meetings and work out at the facility.
“It was definitely the best thing for me,” he said. “It was a good thing to stay in the same rhythm and the routine that everybody else goes through and that you normally have. To not fall off too far or step back from where you’ve been. It was a great benefit for me.”
Coach Rob Chudzinski likes where Gordon is mentally, but said his return won’t solve the problems of the offense.
“Josh will help, but we need to improve in other areas as well,” he said.
Gordon hasn’t been perfect since he found out about the suspension. He was stopped this summer for driving 98 mph.
“It’s a little hard to gauge the speed,” he said. “It might jump from 70 to 80 to 90 sometimes in a faster car. I drive a pretty fast car.
“That’s something I have to deal with and a mistake I made I definitely shouldn’t make again.”
The Browns knew Gordon’s off-the-field history when they drafted him in the second round of the supplemental draft. Then-coach Pat Shurmur and then-president Mike Holmgren tried to shepherd him through his rookie season.
“Nobody should be a caretaker for me at this point in my life,” Gordon said. “I should be seen as a grown man and have the responsibility for the actions I’m taking and I have to look at it as I can’t really just expect to have somebody there for me to always be in my ear and to tell me to do this and that. You just gotta know right from wrong.”
He’s grateful to be done with the suspension.
“It’s a big deal,” he said. “I know it was a looming type cloud just behind me of negativity, so I’m glad to be back on the field and hopefully more people can focus on that.”