The unconventional imposition of a two-game suspension plus a two-game fine on receiver Josh Gordon has raised plenty of questions about the potential consequences for his next violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy.
According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, it’s believed that the next violation by Gordon will result in a one-year suspension.
Gordon’s statement subtly but distinctly creates the impression that he was suspended for only one violation, arising from taking cough syrup that contained codeine. But no player gets to the point where one violation triggers a suspension under the substance-abuse policy unless there have been multiple prior violations.
The ultimate question is whether Gordon’s two-game suspension plus two-game fine places him in Stage Three of the substance-abuse program. If so (and per Cabot he is), Gordon now rests on the brink of a one-year suspension — like Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon and Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington.
It’s an unwelcome development for the new regime in Cleveland, which lost its second-round pick in the 2013 draft because the old regime used the pick last year to acquire Gordon in the supplemental draft. The chatter in league circles is that former G.M. Tom Heckert and former coach Pat Shurmur lobbied aggressively to use the second-rounder pre-emptively on Gordon.
If they had any inkling that the team could be sold within weeks after the 2012 supplemental draft (and their boss, Mike Holmgren, surely did), it makes sense that they would want to go all in with Gordon. To stay employed beyond 2012, they needed a big season. So why not borrow against a draft that they wouldn’t be presiding over if they didn’t turn things around?
They didn’t, and they’re gone. Gordon will be gone for at least a year if he can’t navigate Stage Three of the program without another violation of the policy.
“He’s a really talented guy,” one source with knowledge of Gordon’s career told PFT. “It’s too bad if he can’t figure it out.”
If Gordon didn’t isn’t figuring it out via his two-game suspension, he never will. He’ll lose nearly $150,000 in salary, and he faces a possible attack on a portion of his $2.3 million signing bonus. Under the labor deal, the Browns may try to recover 2/17ths of the $575,000 allocation for this year, which equates to $33,823 that he’d have to pay back to the Browns. (Owner Jimmy Haslam prefers not to think of it as a rebate.)
Time and again, we hear from team executives who realize that many players smoke marijuana. It becomes a problem only when the player gets caught — and when the player can’t or won’t choose playing over smoking.
For Gordon, the accidental nature of his latest violation (if his excuse is truthful) makes the situation a bit less dire. Either way, he’s now one accidental or intentional violation away from spending a year away from football.