As hearing officer Harold Henderson processes the evidence generated by a two-day appeal and works toward an all-or-nothing ruling on whether Browns receiver Josh Gordon will be suspended 16 games, the team holds out hope for a compromise.
According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Browns expect to lose Gordon for at least eight games. If eight becomes the magic number, it will mean that the NFL and NFLPA have worked out a settlement.
It’s not known whether settlement talks have commenced; as of Monday, they hadn’t. And the league has plenty of leverage to bring to the negotiating table. The plain language of the substance-abuse policy, as agreed to by the union, points to the conclusion that Gordon tested positive while in Stage III, which results in an automatic one-year suspension.
Fair or not, especially given the “A” bottle/”B” bottle discrepancy and the low 15 ng/ml threshold for marijuana metabolites, the latest positive represents the culmination of multiple violations by Gordon in only two NFL seasons. And even though the World Anti-Doping Agency increased the minimum from 15 ng/ml to 150 ng/ml, that switch came just last year — and it occurred over the protests of the WADA scientific board.
That may not be enough for the NFL to overcome the P.R. fallout that necessarily will accompany kicking Gordon out of the league for doing that which is legal in two of the 22 states where the NFL does business, due possibly to an addiction similar to the one that may have resulted in Jim Irsay allegedly driving a car with potent prescription medications in his bloodstream. Although a suspension is expected for the Colts owner, Irsay doesn’t face a cold-turkey-or-else mandate, enforced via up to 10 drug tests per month.
Then there’s the Ray Rice angle. He gets suspended two games for knocking his wife out in an elevator, and Gordon gets abandoned by the NFL and the Browns for 365 days because half of his urine sample tested at 16 ng/ml and the other half tested at 13.6 ng/ml, an average of 14.8 ng/ml. Which is 0.2 ng/ml below the limit that is 135 ng/ml lower than WADA’s new maximum.
Despite those facts, there’s currently no reason to believe that the league is worried about the public reaction to a one-year suspension for Gordon. Of course, if the league had worried a little bit more about the public reaction to the Rice suspension, the league wouldn’t have made one of the most publicly criticized decisions in its recent history.