Thinking about Josh Gordon
Two schools of thought after Josh Gordon suddenly and surprisingly decided to put his National Football League career on hold and enter an in-patient rehabilitation facility in an effort to straighten out his life.
The first thought was the young wide receiver’s selfishness in teasing the team and fans into believing he would resume his career next week after serving three different National Football League suspensions over the last two seasons for drug abuse.
He was eligible to rejoin the team next week and play in the Browns’ Oct. 9 game at home against the New England Patriots. No word out of Berea indicated there would be a change in course. The timing of this announcement, if nothing else, is curious.
Gordon, whose mercurial and briefly spectacular career has lifted the hopes of the team and its fans for the future, dropped the bomb Thursday in the form of a statement released by the Browns.
“After careful thought and deep consideration, I have decided that I need to step away from pursuing my return to the Browns and my football career to enter an in-patient rehabilitation facility,” said Gordon in the statement.
“This is the right decision for me and one I hope will enable me to gain full control of my life and continue on a path to reach my full potential as a person. I appreciate the support of the NFL, NFLPA, the Browns, my teammates, my agent and the community through this extremely challenging process.”
If that’s the way he feels, and there is no reason to disbelieve it, why did he wait so long to share it with all the parties involved? That’s a question that might never be answered.
In late August, shortly before playing in the final exhibition game of the season against Chicago, Gordon reflected on playing in the previous exhibition against Tampa Bay when he caught two passes, one for a touchdown.
He said it gave him “that sense of nostalgia (that) this is where I belong; this is where I need to be; this stage was meant for me to play on. That’s what I’m meant to do. Just doing it consistently and being here for this team. That’s really where it starts at and that’s what I want to do.”
Something changed between then and now. Maybe in a moment of weakness he caved and abused drugs and didn’t want to face yet another suspension, this time probably for life. Then again, maybe not. But until Gordon speaks on the record, we will never find out.
The Browns responded to Gordon’s decision with a reasoned reaction. “We support Josh in taking this step to seek additional help and treatment,” said Sashi Brown, the club’s head of football operations. “His singular focus must be on his own health.”
And that brings us to thought No. 2.
Brown is correct. Right now, getting his life together should be the 25-year-old Gordon’s singular focus. Of course, there was no selfishness in his decision Life is too short and often times too complicated to squander at such a young age.
Makes no difference whether he woke up one morning and a light went on or his motivation came from somewhere else. More power to him. Making such a move is difficult in so many different ways.
It’s an admission of weakness. And that’s not easy to do for an athlete who has supreme confidence in what he does on a football field. Separating that and what he does off the field is not easy.
Sometimes the first step is the most difficult one to take on the road to recovery. Gordon deserves to be commended for taking this bold step of getting his seemingly out- of-control life in order.
It has happened before in the NFL. Wide receiver Cris Carter had a bad drinking problem when he was with the Philadelphia Eagles. Being cut by the Eagles served as a jolt for the former Ohio State star.
He rehabilitated himself at a young age, went on to a great career with the Minnesota Vikings and eventually wound up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the Class of 2013. He would be a good role model for Gordon.
And now that he has taken the first steps necessary toward recovery, Gordon should be applauded. He is finally making the correct move, better than any move he ever made on a football field.
Whether his days as a member of the Cleveland Browns are over is a moot point right now. That’s not important. Josh Gordon, the person, is much more important than Josh Gordon, the football player.