CLEVELAND (AP) — The Browns never presumed Josh Gordon would be allowed back from his drug suspension.
Sashi Brown, the head of football operations, said Wednesday the team wasn’t counting on Gordon being reinstated by the NFL, which denied the former Pro Bowler’s application on Tuesday.
Gordon’s rebuff came a day after a person familiar with his situation told The Associated Press that he “raised a red flag” because of a recent league-administered drug test. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because results of NFL drug tests are kept private, said Gordon didn’t have a positive substance abuse test.
However, a sample collected in March showed traces of marijuana and a diluting substance in Gordon’s system, the person said. The level of marijuana was less than the minimum required by the NFL for a positive test.
Gordon was banned for one year in February for multiple drug violations. He can re-apply for re-instatement to Commissioner Roger Goodell later this year, putting the 25-year old’s chances of playing in 2016 in serious jeopardy. He will have to prove that he has abstinent from banned substances in the interim.
“Disappointed for Josh,” Brown told SiriusXM NFL. “Organizationally, we’re focused on the 65 or so players on our roster right now. Once Josh was suspended, we organizationally set our mind frame to not counting on him coming back, and I think that’s the only healthy way to operate and the way we continue to look at it.
“And If Josh is fortunate enough to be re-instated, obviously we’ll have some discussions with him at that time.”
Gordon’s absence likely will have an impact on Cleveland’s decision-making for the upcoming draft. The Browns have the No. 2 overall pick and are expected to take a quarterback, but they may need to address the lack of a big-play wide receiver like Gordon in the early rounds.
Brown hasn’t totally given up on Gordon returning, he’s just not banking on it.
“The thing that I think I take away from it is I just hope Josh gets to a place where he’s able to be reinstated,” Brown said. “He’s got a bright future ahead of him, and he’s still young as heck. So we’re rooting for him, and if it comes to pass that he’s back in the league, great.”
Gordon was a Pro Bowler in 2013, when he led the league with 1,646 yards receiving. He was suspended for 10 games in 2014 and sat out all last season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
Meanwhile, Brown said other teams have expressed interest in the second pick and he expects talks to intensify as the draft nears.
“There has been some interest in the pick, but there always typically is toward the top of the draft, just teams feeling each other out,” Brown said. “I think in earnest as you get closer to the draft, probably in about a week’s time, we’ll start getting real calls with more substantive traction to them.”
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