BEREA, Ohio — As his teammates sweated through another training camp practice, Josh Gordon was in a New York office building where his career — and Cleveland’s season — were in jeopardy.
Gordon met Friday with NFL officials to appeal a possible indefinite suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Gordon’s attorney, Maurice Suh, and other members of his legal team were expected to argue that Gordon tested positive for marijuana because of secondhand smoke, a defense they planned to augment with witnesses.
No decision on Gordon is expected for several days, and the Browns are keeping their fingers crossed the outcome will be favorable.
“I’m an optimistic guy,” said wide receiver Nate Burleson. “I’m a glass half-full guy, so I’m always hoping and expecting the best-case scenario.”
Until they hear from the league, the Browns are going about the business of getting ready for the upcoming season. They’d love to have Gordon for as many games as possible. After all, he’s the club’s top playmaker, one of the league’s elite receivers and an offensive threat who keeps defensive coordinators awake at night. To be without him for any time will drastically change Cleveland’s offense.
Gordon has not been at training camp the past two days, and Browns coach Mike Pettine said he didn’t know if the Pro Bowler will be on the field for Saturday’s scrimmage in Akron.
Gordon’s situation is one of many cases on the league’s legal itinerary.
Commissioner Roger Goodell, speaking at the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, addressed the league’s recent decision to suspend Baltimore running back Ray Rice two games for domestic violence, a ruling met with public outrage. Goodell defended the league’s actions and said each case must be judged on its own merits.
“You have to deal with the facts,” he said. “We have a drug program that is collectively bargained and it has a step process. It takes four incidents before you actually reach a suspension in a drug-related case. You have to respond to facts here. You have a lot of people voicing their opinions, but what you have to understand is that this is a young man (Rice) who made a terrible mistake — it’s inconsistent with what we’re all about.
“We have dealt with it in a serious manner, and we’re very confident that this young man understands where he is and what he needs to do going forward.”
Goodell did not offer much information on Gordon’s case, saying a decision will be based on the information at the hearing.
“Josh is going through a process right now, and I’m not part of that process,” Goodell said. “At some point in time I may have an opportunity to be involved, and when I am, I look forward to meeting him.”
Gordon’s list of off-the-field issues is lengthy, which may hinder his argument. He failed at least three known drug tests in college and he was suspended two games last season for a drug violation.
Separate from his appeal, Gordon could still face league discipline under the league’s personal-conduct policy for his arrest last month on a DUI charge in Raleigh, North Carolina. Gordon reportedly checked himself into a rehab clinic in California following the arrest.
Pettine has said the Browns will have to go with a receiver-by-committee approach if Gordon can’t play.
Slot receiver Andrew Hawkins is confident he and his teammates can pick up the slack.
“We have a bunch of hard-working guys with chips on their shoulders who are going to come out here and bust their butts every day,” he said. “And I’ll take that 10 times out of 10.”
NOTES: Starting free safety Tashaun Gipson walked off the practice field with an apparent left knee injury. Pettine said Gipson, who started 15 games last season, was being evaluated. … Pettine ended practice by having members of his staff catch punts. Pitting the offensive assistants against the defensive assistants, the competition energized the players, who engaged in some spirited trash talk and finger pointing before offensive intern Mike LaFleur caught the final punt, meaning the offense will wear orange jerseys Monday. “I would of lost a lot of money if you would have said we’d put eight coaches out there catching knuckle-ball punts and seven of them would catch it,” Pettine said. “Those guys stepped up. It was impressive.” … Several offensive players celebrated touchdowns, none more demonstratively that Anthony Armstrong, who threw the ball into the second level of the VIP hospitality tent. “It was strictly spur of the moment,” he said. “Your emotions take over.”