One hundred and 11 days. Triple ones. 1-1-1. That's how long Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon must be clean, sober and on his best behavior. If he can do that, if he can pull it together at a time when it appears all hope is lost, Gordon has a stunningly realistic chance of returning to the NFL this season.
I know. It has been easy to proclaim the end of Gordon's career after news of another failed drug test, one that prompted commissioner Roger Goodell to reject Gordon's recent reinstatement request. Even after a yearlong suspension in 2015 and 10 games away in 2014, it's clear that Gordon still isn't making the decisions required to get back on the field.
But the NFL's drug policy allows far more discretion than many fans realize, even for players in Gordon's Stage 3 designation. (There is no Stage 4.) Now that Gordon has served a year of his "indefinite" suspension, he is in essence eligible to return whenever the league makes it so. In this case, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter and others, the NFL will consider another reinstatement application on Aug. 1 -- 111 days from now.
During the 60 days after receiving his application, the league would evaluate Gordon's lifestyle and state of mind and, of course, test him for drugs and alcohol. Because the NFL established a specific "re-check" date, we can assume reinstatement to follow if the league likes what it sees and hears. That gives Gordon an extraordinary opportunity to put aside three years of mistakes with three and a half months of rock-solid living. Josh Gordon could be playing by October -- if not before.
This all sounds easy, of course. What person couldn't put aside some bad habits in order to resume a job that would pay him nearly $1 million this season, and then put him in position to cash in on a multimillion dollar second contract in two years?
Clearly, though, Gordon hasn't fully grasped his obligations as an NFL player. Who knows if he ever will. Counterintuitively, though, he is one lucky guy. His entire career can still be in front of him.
Think about it. Gordon turns 25 on Wednesday. He could play another 10 years or more. And he is not just a really good player. He's transcendent, one of the five best receivers in the game, meaning that some team -- be it the Browns or someone else -- will welcome him if and when he gets himself straight.
So many people are looking at this week's events as confirmation that Gordon doesn't get it and never will. That might be true. But I see it as the revelation of an amazing opportunity. Despite all of his troubles, the NFL wants him back -- and pretty soon. All he needs to do is get through 111 days. It's all up to him.