Everything you need to know about the Josh Gordon saga: WFNY FAQs

Josh Gordon Cleveland Browns
Scott Sargent/WFNY


So Josh Gordon’s appeal hearing has come and gone, but it may be a while before we hear anything in the way of an official ruling. Though he has missed a few minutes here and there to tend to some personal matters, Gordon has been in Training Camp this entire time. Oh, and the preseason starts in just a few days.

What was discussed? Who was there? Why is this taking so freaking long?

As the questions pile up, we here at WFNY have compiled a bit of an FAQ of sorts to help guide you through the process. Enjoy.

Q: Let’s start from the beginning. What the heck happened?

A: Funny you should ask.  As we were all anxiously awaiting the beginning of the second day (night?) of the 2014 NFL Draft, word came out that Gordon was staring down the barrel of a indefinite suspension for violating the league’s drug policy. Belief was that the incredibly talented wide receiver failed a drug test and, being in Stage 3 of the NFL’s substance abuse program, was due for an automatic suspension that would also include him having to apply for reinstatement after the year had come to a close.

Q: Wasn’t he suspended last year?

A: Yes, for just two games, but the substance in question was allegedly codeine, that was prescribed to the player to fight a cold.

Q: You’re not really buying that, are you?

A: Pardon the pun, but where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. This said, Gordon’s camp came out, immediately following this latest incident, defending the Browns record holder. His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, referred to the news as inaccurate. Gordon’s former teammate, Greg Little, referred to the news as “a mistake.” From there, speculation swirled that Gordon may have simply missed a drug test instead of failing one. Unfortunately, when we are dealing with the NFL, the results are the same.

Q: Then what did happen?

A: It’s complex, but one can’t help but raise an eyebrow when seeing how this all unfolded. Gordon reportedly provided a urine sample that was then split into two separate specimens as per league policy. The first specimen registered at 16 nanograms, one billionth of a gram more than the league’s 15 nanogram threshold. Once this came to fruition, the league went to confirm the first specimen with the second, which registered at 13.6 nanograms—less than the threshold, but enough to trigger the league’s confirmation procedures.

Had the specimens been tested in a different order, the 13.6 ng/ml specimen would not have triggered the testing of the second one and Gordon would have passed 71 tests as opposed to the alleged 70.

Q: You’re right. That is complex. So how does this compare to other leagues?

A: Good question. For comparison’s sake, the World Anti-Doping Agency requires 150 nanograms per milliliter to test positive for marijuana. Baseball requires 50 nanograms per milliliter, as do the states of California and Nevada—how often do you hear about MLB players suspended for marijuana? The U.S. military requires a positive test of 50 nanograms per milliliter to flag potential violators of its drug policy, and then only a 15-nanogram-per-milliliter sample when the test is confirmed. At the end of the day, the NFL has restrictions far greater than essentially every other governing body when it comes to the use of marijuana.

Q: So that whole math thing. Will Gordon get off on a technicality?

A: He may. This is what his legal team, led by Heather McPhee of the NFLPA and Maurice Suh, has reportedly argued—that the wide receiver’s test results were inconsistent. His “A” and “B” specimens turning up different amounts, one below league threshold, and that Gordon should not be subject to banishment. They’re also claiming secondhand smoke due to the low amount found in the sample—an argument that has yet to work in a player’s defense but could very well lead to a reduction (and a watershed moment) this time around.

[Related: Everything you need to know about trading for Kevin Love: WFNY FAQs]

Q: Who heard the appeal?

A: With Roger Goodell in Canton, Ohio for Hall of Fame festivities, Gordon’s hearing was held by an arbitrator, Herold Henderson, spanning roughly two full days. Henderson served as NFL Executive Vice President for Labor Relations and Chairman of the NFL Management Council Executive Committee for sixteen years. In that capacity, he had responsibility for all aspects of the League’s player and labor relations, with a legal and professional staff of 44 reporting to him. Henderson, now Executive Vice President for Player Development, has focused on Player Development programs, drug, alcohol, steroid and conduct policies, and benefits for current and former players. Per Mary Kay Cabot of, the team is expected to hear word on any impending punishment in one-to-three weeks. For what it’s worth, first cuts are August 26 at 4 p.m.

Q: So does the whole Ray Rice issue come into play?

A: By “Ray Rice issue,” you mean the two-game suspension he received for knocking his fiancée out in an elevator and then dragging her body to a hotel room?

Q: I’ll ask the questions here. Yes. That one.

A: It depends who you believe. The NFL received incredible backlash for suspending the running back for just two games given the footage that circulated, clearly depicting the incident in question. Given that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been under fire for not issuing punishment to owners like Jim Irsay, but coming down on players, there is extreme scrutiny surrounding Gordon’s case and what, if any, public relations will play a part. One school of thought is that Goodell could throw the book at Gordon, showing that he is in fact not being lenient on players, perhaps leading to some collateral damage from the Ray Rice issue. Another is that if Gordon is in fact suspended for the season, it will only further tarnish any credibility the league has when it comes to punishing players, essentially saying that a marijuana violation (regardless of Stage) is eight times worse than domestic violence.

Q: Why does Roger Goodell get any say in these matters? Doesn’t this defeat the point of an appeal?

A: Yeah, pretty much. The NFL, arguably the worst union of the three major sports, collectively bargained for Goodell to be judge, jury and executioner in hearings of this nature. It’s expected that this changes at some point in the not-so-distant future given the outcry over each individual ruling.

Q: What about that whole DUI? Will that play a role?

A: No. Gordon has a separate hearing for the DUI he was cited for on July 4 weekend. Similar to the marijuana test, Gordon’s Blood Alcohol Level during his arrest was a swish of mouth wash above the legal limit. His team is attempting to have the charges dropped on this account. He also checked himself into rehab immediately following the arrest.

Q: So where does this leave the Browns?

A: Gordon, as of Tuesday morning, was listed at the top of the Browns’ depth chart at the wide receiver position. If he is in fact suspended for the season, his salary is paused until the following year, meaning that the Browns would continue to have a relative bargain when it comes to the cost of having one of the most talented players in the game.

Owner Jimmy Haslam and general manager Ray Farmer have both gone on record stating that the team has no plans of cutting Gordon despite all of his off-field issues. Mike Pettine referred to the whole situation as a “process.” And as former Browns tight end Ben Watson tweeted, “[Gordon is] clearly a troubled man who needs help. But his life is worth more than the balls he can catch and how fast he can run. I don’t believe anyone is unsaveable. The question is, will we give him the support and tough love they need before just writing them off.”

(Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY)

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Just make a decision already, please, I beg you!

  • Natedawg86

    It does make you check the news frequently to see if there is a decision. If the hearing findings were scheduled the same time as a Browns preseason game, you would probably tune into the hearing findings.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    This decision will be on Twitter before it happens but will most likely be carried everywhere. I’m predicting 8 games trying to be optimistic and think 4 games.

  • mgbode

    Love the FAQ style here. Helps get to the main points quickly. Let’s not forget he also was caught speeding (and a friend had pot in the car) during this whole time period as well, which doesn’t help his perception.

    It will be interesting what happens here and also how (if) it affects Blackmon who is currently serving his indefinite ban. In addition, the NFL seems to be willing to raise the threshold or eliminate the ban altogether in the near future.

  • nj0

    “Gordon’s hearing was held by an arbitrator”

    No, it wasn’t!!!!!

    As per the policy on banned substances – “The Commissioner will designate a time and place for the hearing (either in person or by telephone), at either which he or his designee will preside”.

    I’m sorry that this is becoming a talking point for me, but he is not an arbitrator. He is the designee of Czar Roger to sit in on the hearing on his behalf. As far as I can tell, Mr. Henderson is not a member of the Arbitrator Association of America. And even if he was, I don’t think he could ethically serve as such in this case considering the fact that he is an NFL employee

    He is not an impartial, neutral third party agreed upon by both sides (the traditional definition of arbitrator).

    I know some may think this is a small point, but I think the language here is very important. People hear arbitrator and think – “fair and neutral”. This is not the case. It’s more like when your boss can’t make it to a meeting so they send you instead. If you’re writing an article about the facts, please make sure they’re accurate! This was not a hearing with a neutral party. It was not any sort of arbitration.

  • 6thCity

    Josh reminds me a little bit of that kid in my group of HS friends that did nothing worse than the rest of us but got caught for every single thing. Also, 15 is an incredibly low threshold, you could pull a 15 after attending an outdoor Hall and Oats concert. So there is that.

  • Harv 21

    He is not “staring down the barrel of a full -suspension,” but of an INDEFINITE suspension with the right to apply for reinstatement in one year. There’s a substantive difference, as shown by players who are still out after a year. It also implies that Josh would have to successfully comply with testing, not just wait a year.

    Please guys, get this detail right.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Guilt by association but he should know better by now. Not only that he’s not laying low.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Indefinite is a really long time! 😉

  • 6thCity

    Absolutely, the devil is in the details when you invite this kind of scrutiny into your life. And he’s been inviting it for at least 5 years now. Sadly, I tend to think his career is over.

  • hutch058

    …or a short time…

  • nj0

    Talk is one to three… weeks! NO!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I don’t know something tells me he won’t be suspended indefinitely and quite possibly not even the entire season. There is a reason why this is taking so long I tend to think his lawyer may have found something to lessen his punishment. The sad part will be if he does something again after all of this if that happens ban him and be done with it.

  • The_Real_Shamrock
  • Added language to the post to intimate his affiliation with the league. Thanks.

  • Amended.

  • nj0

    Thank you. It’s language I see used in every media article about the hearing. I think it’s very misleading. Glad to see you’re holding a higher standard than most.

  • Good stuff. I just can’t wrap my head around the logic of having two samples if the second doesn’t really matter.

  • BenRM

    I have Gordon in a keeper league…the longer this goes, the more annoyed I become.


  • porckchop

    “The NFL, arguably the worst union of the three major sports…”
    That whistling sound you heard while typing that sentence was Billy Hunter and Kevin “Sexual Harrassment” Johnson taking their nightly stroll past the graveyard.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    1-3 games? If so that’s a win for both Gordon and the Browns. I can’t see it being as short as 1 game though. I also don’t think based on the Ray Rice punishment as well as the test results that the suspension will be indefinite or season long. I think there will be a compromise which is why I really think 8 games. But if there is said compromise I would have to think it’s Gordon’s last chance.

  • We try.

  • 6thCity

    Here’s hoping.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    For the Browns yes for Gordon I don’t know. Just would like to see him figure it out already. It’s a shame to waste that kind of talent over drugs or alcohol.

  • saggy

    I agree that the lawyers are fighting the good fight. I think they may not even suspend him at all. If they are going to accept the fact that there was inconsistency in sampling, how could they legitimately suspend the guy?

    i actually think there is another reason this is taking so long: the longer it takes, the more time will have passed from the Ray Rice incident. I would almost expect a resolution on next Friday evening around 7pm.

  • nj0

    I meant the decision will be in 1-3 weeks.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    njNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! That’s ridiculous if true.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    As I said to nj0 this is taking way to long BUT hopefully that’s to Gordon’s benefit.

  • The_Real_Shamrock