Josh Gordon is supposed be with his Cleveland Browns teammates. He is supposed be getting back to work. He isn’t. And that’s likely the best thing for him.
Gordon’s tough decision deserves praise.
If the situation is as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported and Gordon “hasn’t had any slip-ups or failed drug tests,” then Gordon is taking care of himself at a moment of vulnerability. The star receiver, whose career has been marred by substance abuse, sought help instead of making a mistake. That’s an enormous step for the young receiver.
His return will not happen as soon as everyone would like. But it’s the pace that’s best for Gordon. A premature return to training camp would be the wrong thing for him. The Browns would be sending him to climb a mountain with self doubt, no water and flip flops.
It sucks for Browns fans, players and coaches that Gordon won’t be at the facility when he should be. But the goal should be to get Gordon on the field for Week 1 — even if he isn’t present for day one.
Sure, he knew he needed to report on Monday. But mental health can be fragile — there’s no saying what can trigger someone who struggles with addiction. It’s not our place to judge Gordon’s inability to time out his return properly.
Most importantly, he has demonstrated self-awareness he previously lacked.
The Browns can’t possibly be disappointed. They know Gordon — they know his weaknesses. They should be proud. They know they’re dealing with a person who is weighed down by addiction issues. They could have cut him or traded him. They don’t need to be his employer. So if they are indeed all-in on Gordon, they need to support him in his recovery and acknowledge that his absence from camp is a positive step forward. His absence could be extended — C.C. Sebathia took time to address his alcohol addiction and missed the postseason. That’s what the Browns bargained for.
This is who Gordon is. He’s trying to change — but he can’t do it all at once. He’s clearly working hard physically and emotionally to be the player they need him to be. That way, he’ll be impossible to tackle on the field and off it.