BEREA, Ohio -- Every player on the field for the Cleveland Browns in Baltimore on Sunday showed what it means to be a professional.
Their two teammates who could not even show up for work on Saturday did not.
The team might miss Gordon’s talent, but it won’t miss the complete lack of professionalism the two have shown. Waiting on them to change is waiting for Tinker Bell. Enough.
The Browns should cut their losses and move on. The team will be better for it -- and the team is what it is supposed to be about.
"We're going to take our time here," coach Mike Pettine said Monday. "We're going to step away from the emotion of it all. Get some time off. Come back. We'll have all the players written up and evaluated and in a much less emotional environment evaluate the roster and talk about each position and what changes need to be made.
"That's something I'm sure all positions will be discussed. How do the players on our roster given where they are now ... should they be here or should they not be here?"
Teams have to stand for something. When a situation gets to this point, preaching without implementing principles is empty talk.
Manziel and Gordon missed their last Saturday of work. Various reports said several Browns were late Saturday, but a team source denied that. The only two missing were Manziel and Gordon. And both were missing for the large majority of the morning -- with security knocking on Manziel’s door to find him.
The Browns could try to trade Gordon; he has rare talent. But what other NFL team would give up something for a guy with two league suspensions and one team suspension, not to mention his speeding tickets and his DUI and all else that goes with him?
Guys are entitled to a life and to have fun; Manziel and Gordon surely weren’t the only two to go out Friday night. But they didn’t get up for work the next day. As Pettine said, their actions affected their job.
“You’d expect a middle-schooler to show up on time," tackle Joe Thomas said. "Why can’t we expect NFL players to show up on time?”
The cap hit for Manziel is not cheap -- $5.5 million -- but Gordon’s is a mere $600,000. The price for principle, and the team, is worth it. Add in Manziel's five first downs in seven quarters (two by penalty) and nine three-play possessions and Gordon averaging three receptions in his final three games (and his key drops against the Colts) and the cap cost becomes nearly irrelevant.
Rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert’s situation might be a little different, though his teammates' blistering words indicate it might not be. The team properly handled Gilbert being late for a meeting on Saturday night -- after the trip to Baltimore -- by making him inactive.
For this trio, the final weekend reached the point that the team suspended Gordon, and Pettine had Gilbert and Manziel sit in the locker room during the game. That sounded like a third-grader not allowed out of class for recess.
Owner Jimmy Haslam talked tough after Sunday's loss to Baltimore, saying players who don't show up for meetings or practice "disrespect the team, the coaches, the staff, the fans."
But if Haslam and the team turn a blind eye to what happened Saturday then what do the words really mean except that the Browns are merely enabling this behavior? This all harkens back to the day when former Brown Braylon Edwards was told not to go to an Ohio State-Michigan game, then helicoptered there and returned late. Edwards went on his merry way, dropping passes and letting his teammates and the fans down.
There were examples of professionalism all over the field in Baltimore, from Joe Haden playing with the flu to Karlos Dansby coming back from a knee injury to Andrew Hawkins playing after having his thumb in a splint all week. No fan can or should be let down in the least by the effort or dedication the team showed. They represented the Browns the way a team with a proud heritage should be represented.
Unfortunately they have “teammates” who don’t.
Everyone is responsible for their actions. Actions bring accountability. It’s time for the Browns to hold these “players” truly accountable.