Browns receiver Josh Gordon continues to face a minimum suspension of one calendar year. But as his appeal remains pending, Gordon remains eligible to practice and play as he awaits the resolution of his appeal. He was in the starting lineup against the Lions.
On Thursday, we reported that no settlement talks had commenced. Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that no settlement talks will happen.
If not, that points to an all-or-nothing, full-year-or-no-suspension outcome, since the plain language of the substance-abuse policy contains no wiggle room. Cabot nevertheless reports, citing an unnamed source, that hearing officer Harold Henderson can impose a suspension between zero days and 365, if he chooses.
Technically, that’s accurate; Henderson can do whatever he wants, and neither the league nor the NFLPA will have the ability to appeal his decision. But the league insists that Henderson has no discretion to do anything other than impose a full-year suspension, if he finds that Gordon tested positive while in Stage III. Since Henderson previously served as the executive V.P. of labor relations for the NFL, it would be a surprise if he doesn’t apply the policy generated by labor negotiations as written.
On Friday, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello reiterated a quote that the league office issued to PFT last month: “The disciplinary penalties were negotiated by the parties more than 20 years ago and there has never been a proposal to change them. When they were first established, the union expressed the strong view that they needed to be stated and mandatory to ensure that all players be treated the same regardless of position, experience, level of ability, or competitive considerations. On appeal, the hearing officer’s responsibility is to determine whether the violation was established and, if so, he is bound by the agreed-upon sanctions.”
In other words, there’s no discretion and no middle ground. The policy states that a player who tests positive in Stage III “will be” suspended for a minimum of a full year. While the NFLPA believes/hopes that Henderson will show lenience, the policy seems to prevent any lenience other than a finding of no violation. Based on the quote from the league office, that’s how the NFLPA wanted it to be.