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Help Gordon, don’t cut the young star

07/07/2014, 12:00am EDT
By DAVE HACKENBERG BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST
Help Gordon, don’t cut the young star

It’s an old story with a new twist.

Browns receiver Josh Gordon was pulled over for speeding early Saturday morning in Raleigh then charged with driving while impaired for reportedly having a blood-alcohol level slightly above the legal limit.

The twist? His bond was paid by a convicted felon, a guy who not too long ago pleaded guilty to drugs and weapon charges. Nice touch.

I’m not sure what’s wrong with Gordon, whether he is merely a bad actor with bad timing hanging with a bad crowd, a dude with a never-ending need for speed — haven’t we all lost count of the traffic citations? — an alcoholic, a drug addict, all of the above, whatever.

You may recall Gordon failed multiple drug tests and was kicked off two college teams before being taken by the Browns in the 2012 supplemental draft. Those weren’t mere red flags; they were scarlet, carmine, ruby, and crimson flags fully engulfed in fire-engine-red flames.

He missed two games last season (an original four-game suspension was cut in half) because of a violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Then a story broke around the time of the 2014 NFL Draft that he had failed another drug test that would result in a minimum one-year suspension, subject to a successful appeal for reinstatement.

Upon news of the arrest in Raleigh, former teammate D’Qwell Jackson, now with the Colts, took to Twitter and said: “If you’re close to Josh Gordon please help this kid; it’s not about football anymore it’s about picking up the pieces of his life.”

Well, yes, but in the NFL, it’s always about football.

Reportedly, Gordon has an appeal meeting scheduled later this month with commissioner Roger Goodell, who is not particularly compassionate to begin with. You’d figure this latest incident cost Gordon any benefit of the doubt in seeking a reduction of a presumed season-long suspension.

My friend Bud Shaw in Cleveland added to that thought, writing: “He should also lose all benefit of the doubt with the Browns. Anyone less talented would’ve been cut, or never drafted … The Browns should wish him the best and move on.”

Usually, I would have read that and been angry that Bud beat me to it.

This time, I muttered aloud, “No, no, no… not so fast.”

Either I have turned over a new, less-conservative, old-dog-new-trick leaf, or I am being utterly hypocritical from past opinions. Guilty, I guess.

But if there’s a chance that Josh Gordon plays again in the NFL, it should be with the Browns.

Because, contrary to Jackson’s plea, which is certainly heartfelt, it remains about football and, when it comes to football, Gordon has put up numbers that hint of a Hall of Fame-type career. (The key word there is “type.” It is folly to suggest there will ever be a bust in Canton because he has certainly poised himself to be a bust of another kind.)

A season ago, despite playing in just 14 games, Gordon had the finest receiving year in the league (1,646 yards) and the best single season in Cleveland history. In two years, he has 137 catches for 2,451 yards and 14 touchdowns with a cast of mostly square pegs trying to fit into a round hole at quarterback.

The Browns were already preparing for life without Josh in 2014, and that will almost certainly be the case now. He is the team’s top playmaker, and his absence will rob QB Brian Hoyer of a key weapon and do nothing to help accelerate the development of Johnny Manziel.

But on opening day, 2015, Gordon will be only 24 years old. He needs help, lots of it, and it has to start with him recognizing his destructive behavior and tendencies.

But, other than to send a message, why should the Browns cut and run? The problem is the same today as it was yesterday and the day before that.

The problem needs to be fixed, but if and when it is, it would be a shame for Cleveland’s long-beleaguered fans to see such a talent in another uniform.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.

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