The Cleveland Browns' owner is under federal investigation. Their franchise running back is sidelined with another injury. And their top wide receiver just got suspended for violating the NFL substance abuse policy.
But, wait, wide receiver Josh Gordon has an explanation for why he was suspended two games and docked an additional two game checks by the NFL.
"In February, I was diagnosed with strep throat for which a doctor prescribed antibiotics and cough medicine," Gordon said in a statement released by the team. "Apparently, the medicine I took contained codeine, which is prohibited by the NFL policy. The policy terms are strict about unintentional ingestion, but the NFL has not imposed the maximum punishment in light of the facts of my case. Therefore, I have chosen to be immediately accountable for the situation. I sincerely apologize for the impact on my team, coaches, and Browns fans. I look forward to working hard in training camp and preseason, and contributing immediately when I return in Week 3.”
Whatever Gordon's explanation is, this doesn't remove the dark cloud that has hovered over this franchise this offseason. The new regime has encountered the same old problems that have haunted the Browns since returning to the league in 1999. It's difficult to be optimistic about the upgraded pass rush and improved downfield passing game when the Browns are always in damage control.
This latest incident won't endear Gordon to the likes of CEO Joe Banner, general manager Mike Lombardi and coach Rob Chudzinski. It was the previous decision-makers who took a chance on Gordon despite his history of questionable character and immaturity. Gordon failed three marijuana tests in college, two at Baylor and another one at Utah.
Going forward, the Browns have to decide whether they can build their passing game around Gordon. There's no doubt Gordon has the physical skills to be a playmaker in the league. Quarterback Brandon Weeden said Gordon "has the ability to be a top-three receiver in the NFL."
But can the Browns trust that Gordon can stay out of trouble? This incident comes less than 11 months after the Browns spent a second-round pick on Gordon. This mistake will cost him four game checks, a total of $148,894.
It now makes sense why the Browns traded for Davone Bess during the draft and why the Browns have been hesitant to give a ringing endorsement of Gordon.
Three days ago, Chudzinski said he didn't know anything about rumors circulating about a Browns player being suspended. This is what Chudzinski had to say about Gordon after the news broke: “Obviously we are all disappointed in this news. In our short time with Josh, he has done everything that we’ve asked him to do and he has exhibited substantial improvement. We believe that he will continue to work diligently through training camp and the preseason. I am confident that others will step up in his absence.”
This is the second straight year that a Browns player has been suspended. Last season, cornerback Joe Haden was suspended four games for taking the drug Adderall. The Browns went 0-4 in his absence.
Different year, same problems for the Browns.