Josh Gordon returns to Browns after working on 'mental, physical health'

Wide receiver Josh Gordon has returned to the Cleveland Browns, expressing gratitude to the team for giving him time to work on his mental and physical health.

"As I humbly return to being a member of this team with an opportunity to get back to playing this game I love, I realize in order for me to reach my full potential, my primary focus must remain on my sobriety and mental well-being," Gordon said in a statement Saturday.

Gordon had been away from the team since it opened training camp last month. League sources had told ESPN's Adam Schefter that Gordon was seeking additional counseling to deal with his mental health and anxiety. The wide receiver has said that he previously used alcohol or marijuana when he was anxious, something he cannot do without another violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy.

"I never lost trust in him," Browns coach Hue Jackson said Saturday. "Obviously, he was doing something to make himself better and put himself in a better place, which I think is very important. I think the health part for him is real important, and I get that and respect that.

"I think at the same time, what's very important is that he continues to do the things that the organization has set forth and that the football team has set forth. I think Josh understands that, and I think he is willing to do that and that will happen over time. In time, I think it will show exactly where he is."

The Browns moved Gordon to the active/non-football injury list, and NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Gordon is not cleared to practice.

"He cannot practice but may watch," McCarthy said in an email to The Associated Press. "No timetable on next steps."

Browns general manager John Dorsey said in a statement that Gordon will start by participating in meetings and conditioning. The receiver will gradually return to all football activities, Dorsey said.

Jackson said there's a "chance" that Gordon could be ready for the season opener, but there's no guarantee that he'll step right back into a starting spot.

"He understands that he has to earn a right to get back out there. Nothing is going to be given," Jackson said. "He doesn't walk right back out and become the starting 'X' on our team. He is going to have to earn that.

"... At some point in time, when we think it's right, when I think it's right for him to be back in that mode, then we will stick him back out there. But not before then."

The Browns had been talking with free-agent receiver Dez Bryant over the past few days, and Jackson said Gordon's return would not impact those discussions.

"One has nothing to do with the other, in my opinion," Jackson said. "Things will unfold as they will. The most important thing we know is that Josh is here. We had a good conversation with Dez, and until he is a Cleveland Brown, I can only worry about the guys who are on this football team."

The decision for Gordon to return to practice will include the doctors overseeing his counseling.

Jackson said he has met with Gordon and is confident that the receiver "is in a real solid place."

"I think I will be even more excited when that really happens, once he is out there playing and he has earned the trust of the teammates and coaches and he is out there contributing to our football team," Jackson said. "Then I will feel really good about it. There's still some steps to go every day, and we're going to keep working at it."

Dorsey praised Gordon's "hard work, commitment and focus on becoming the best version of himself." Jackson echoed those sentiments.

"I am confident that he is here. That's the most important part," Jackson said. "How long he stays, only Josh knows that. But I think he is in a much better place. I think we feel very good about where he is. But I think all of those things are always fluid, it's always a concern, but at the same time, we are here to support and try to create the right environment for Josh."

In other moves Saturday, the team signed tight end Stephen Baggett and waived tight end Julian Allen (injury designation) and defensive back Micah Hannemann.

Gordon has missed most of the past three seasons because of suspensions stemming from violations of the substance abuse policy. The Browns had told Gordon to take the extra time away from the team in a proactive move, sources said.

He thanked the Browns, the NFL and the players' association, among others, for helping him.

"This has by no means been an easy road, and I'm extremely grateful to have all of you in my life," Gordon said in his statement.

Information from ESPN's Pat McManamon was used in this report.