Every time I consider getting overly excited for Josh Gordon’s return to the football field, I think of one thing: The uniforms. That’s right, out of all of the chaos and turmoil and the emotional roller coaster that has been Gordon’s tenure with the Browns, I think of the uniforms. This, of course, is because every story that has been written about Gordon — be it on these pages or others — is more often than not tied to a litany of images of Gordon caching passes in practice or during a game while wearing the old Cleveland Browns uniforms.
Here’s one I took a while back:
Think about this. The player who has been the subject of countless headlines since being drafted in the supplementary session in 2012 has yet to play in a regular season game since that fateful night when Dwyane Bowe, Brian Hartline, and Barkevious Mingo stood and nodded aimlessly on a convention center stage to unveil the team’s oranger orange. Sure, there were those handful of preseason games where Gordon made us believe he and Robert Griffin III could be something, but that was it. Everything else? They look like someone slapped the images in Instagram and decreased the saturation to about 30 percent.
When Gordon was reinstated (conditionally), rumors immediately circulated surrounding the wide receiver’s future. It had appeared the team all but detached themselves from his ongoing saga, refusing to comment on him when asked at any turn. Twitter GMs insisted that he would be traded to another team upon the Browns acquiring the rights to do so, but with each additional day, it appears more and more as if No. 12 could have a legitimate shot of being inserted into the team’s lineup as the timeline allows.
That timeline is one that permits Gordon to join in team meetings on Wednesday, his first time with teammates since last preseason when he checked himself into a rehabilitation clinic. At the time, this caught everyone off guard as Gordon displayed incredible skills, spreading the field and hauling in multiple touchdowns. Little did we know, he had bottomed out not long before after an entire career of taking drugs and drinking before every single game. While we were busy getting our hopes up, Gordon was busy tearing himself down.
Gordon has spent the last two seasons reportedly working at getting better and getting back on the field. The Browns, conversely, have been unable to rebound, putting out an embarrassing array of pass-catching options around fledgeling quarterbacks. Here is a list of players who have caught passes for the Browns since Gordon last played in an NFL game on December 21, 2014:
- Terrance West
- Isaiah Crowell
- Taylor Gabriel
- Jordan Cameron
- Andrew Hawkins
- Travis Benjamin
- Rodney Smith
- Duke Johnson Jr.
- Robert Turbin
- Travis Benjamin
- Shaun Draughn
- Terrelle Pryor Sr.
- Gary Barnidge
- Brian Hartline
- Darius Jennings
- Marlon Moore
- Jim Dray
- Dwyane Bowe
- Malcolm Johnson
- E.J. Bibbs
- Rob Housler
- Corey Coleman
- Ricardo Louis
- Seth Devalve
- Rashard Higgins
- Dan Vitale
- Randall Telfair
- Connor Hamlett
- Jordan Payton
- Matthew Dayes
- David Njoku
- Bryce Treggs
- Kenny Britt
- Kasen Williams
- Sammie Coates
- Jordan Leslie
- Kevin Zeitler
So you can understand why the team (even this team, the one that can’t wait to trade) would be excited about the prospects of Gordon returning. You can understand why coaches and the front office and even Browns teammates are taking these next few weeks with a bit of skepticism.
“I do need to feel comfortable that he’s not (trying to leave the team),” said head coach Hue Jackson. “If he’s coming back to play football, he knows he needs to play football here. There’s no other place that he can do what he needs to do in the National Football League as far as playing. It’s right here.”
“Everybody deserves chances in life, so I wish him the best and hopefully he’ll be able to get back in the league,” said Chris Kirksey.
“I know it’s well detailed the stuff that he has gone through in the past. … Hopefully, everything works out well, and he will be out there on the field for us,” said Jason McCourty
As has been the case for many of the last few suspensions for Gordon, reports are swirling that the former league-leading receiver is in the ‘best shape of his career.’ It’s crazy to think that, along with the uniform dynamics, Gordon is just 26 years old. It’s also crazy to think that, despite this being years of nonsense, the Browns have yet to find a player who could produce at even a fraction of the level Gordon did during his 10-game season.
From a next steps standpoint, he’ll meet with Hue Jackson and his teammates while taking part in conditioning drills, and is expected to address the media. Media has never been an issue for Gordon who, during his time on an active roster, was always categorized as affable and cordial, providing thoughtful responses to all inquiries. If Gordon can stay on track through meetings and such over the next few weeks, he can practice with the team on Nov. 20. If the team feels he’s ready, he can then play in the final five games of the season, beginning Dec. 3, in Los Angeles against the Chargers.
Maybe then, if everything goes to plan, he’ll finally get one of those new uniforms. At that point, I’ll start to get excited.
This Week in #ActualSportswriting
- “LeBron’s Secret Workout Could Start a Pregame Revolution” by Tom Haberstroh (B/R Mag)
- “Patrick Ewing Has the Floor” by Ian O’Connor (ESPN The Magazine)
- “What Does Giannis Look Like as an NBA Superstar?” by Kevin Arnovitz (ESPN)1
- “Deliver Us From Failure: How the Astros Endured Futility to Become World Series Champions” by Ben Reiter (Sports Illustrated)2
This Week in #ActualNonsportswriting
- “A Pill to Make Exercise Obsolete” by Nicola Twilley (New Yorker)
- “The Tear-Stained Confessions of Sam Smith” by Taffy Brodesser-Akner (New York Times)
- “John Boehner Unchained” by Tim Alberta (POLITICO)3
- “Hearing Both Sides of Taylor Swift” by Alyssa Bereznak (The Ringer)
This Week in Bleacher Report
This Week in YESSSSSSSSSSSS
This Week in Picks:
Why do I feel like I need a law degree to enjoy the NFL. When this column was penned last week, Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott was slated to miss Week 9. Given that the line moved to “pick” on the news, I decided that Kansas City was the way to go. Between Wednesday morning and Sunday afternoon, Elliott was granted something that would allow him to once again join the Cowboys on the field. In my pool, I changed my pick to Dallas (which won). Here, however, it was too late. The result was a 1-2 week—my first losing week in a month. This week, we get them back.
Cleveland (+13.5) at DETROIT4
JACKSONVILLE (-4) vs. Los Angeles Chargers
NY Giants (pick) at SAN FRANCISCO
YTD ATS: 17-10
Last Week: 1-2