On Friday, ESPN reported that Browns receiver Josh Gordon faces a season-long suspension for his latest violation of the substance-abuse policy.
On Friday night, Browns G.M. Ray Farmer wisely declined to discuss the situation.
“I know there’s been a lot of shocking supposedly news that we’re not going to comment on in regards to Josh Gordon,” Farmer told reporters. “We’re not going to comment on our players’ health status and anyone that’s on this roster.”
It’s the smart move, because the substance-abuse policy contains a confidentiality clause that imposes a $500,000 penalty for any violation of it. (Never mind the fact that it was violated by someone or we wouldn’t know about the potential Josh Gordon suspension.) No information about a positive test should emerge until a player is suspended and the suspension has been finalized after the appeal process.
Since Farmer didn’t initially explain it that way, he faced several follow-up questions from reporters who, whether they knew it or not, were trying to get Farmer to say something that would get him in hot water with 345 Park Avenue.
Why won’t you answer questions about player health status?
“I think the regards of any players’ status, with regards to their contract or their health, it’s a private matter,” Farmer said. “To that end, I would say that it doesn’t behoove anyone if the player isn’t going to miss any time from any games that may be played.”
Did you know about the possible suspension before the draft?
“I opened the press conference with the idea that we’re not going to comment about anything that has to do with Josh Gordon or any status of our players, in regards to their health,” Farmer said”
Why are you not commenting on this?
“To the end that the league has really stated what we can say and what we cannot say,” Farmer said. “Until we have definitive clarity as to what those things are, we’re going to remain silent.”
The questions then shifted, but not by much. Farmer was asked if the news regarding Gordon undermines an otherwise big day for the franchise.
“I think it still is a big day for the Browns,” Farmer said. “We picked up three good football players. We went into this draft, and we had an opportunity to acquire players, and we did just that. The first young man that we took [offensive lineman] Joel Bitonio, is going to help this football team tremendously, as well as [linebacker] Christian Kirksey, as well as [running back] Terrance West.”
Farmer defended not drafting a receiver despite the Gordon situation and the broken arm reportedly suffered by Nate Burleson by relying on the notion that the team has time to address situations like the one he won’t talk about.
“I’m not concerned with the depth at wide receiver because we play games in September, and right now there’s still plenty of opportunity for us to acquire players and to make things happen,” Farmer said. “Whether it’s trades, whether it’s drafting someone the next day, whether it’s players that get cut or we acquire somebody from the street. There’s always opportunities to acquire players. From our perspective, that where we’re focused on is using every opportunity to acquire players that become available.”
It’s a fair point, and it could make Browns fans wonder why they didn’t try to trade for Stevie Johnson. It makes us wonder whether Santonio Holmes will become an option for the Browns at some point. Or whether they’d consider signing Jimmy Graham to an offer sheet and using him as a receiver to go along with tight end Jordan Cameron.
Regardless, the fact that Farmer didn’t call the report about a potential Gordon suspension absolutely, positively false means that there’s something to it. If Gordon ultimately ends up not being available for 2014, the Browns will have a huge hole to fill in their offense.