The decision of the Browns to place receiver Josh Gordon on the “did not report” list instead of the non-football illness list gave a vaguely ominous situation yet another layer of ambiguity. According to the Browns, however, the decision was rooted in one factor only: Roster flexibility.
While Gordon is on the “did not report” list, he won’t count toward the 90-man roster. If he were on the non-football illness list, Gordon would consume a roster spot.
Also, it’s possible the Browns couldn’t have placed Gordon on the non-football illness list if they wanted to, since he would have had to show up and fail a physical before being placed on active/NFI. Literally, he did not report for camp. So he’s on the “did not report” list.
Per a league source, Gordon’s return to the active roster won’t be automatic. He’ll have to make a written request for reinstatement to the Browns, and the Commissioner will have to approve it.
At this point, there’s no reason to think the Browns wouldn’t welcome him back, or that the Commissioner would block his return. That said, the Commissioner retains broad discretion on the question of whether Gordon has in any way violated the specific terms of his treatment plan under the substance-abuse policy, which by rule would subject him to another suspension of at least one year.
There continues to be no specific reason to believe that Gordon will be suspended again, notwithstanding the league’s arguably loaded comment that it will address Gordon’s status “at the appropriate time.” Perhaps the league’s comment refers simply to the fact that, because he did not report for camp, the Commissioner at some point will be asked to affirmatively approve his return to the active roster.