BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – It had been 448 days since Josh Gordon was seen on a practice field in Berea but his presence Wednesday was impossible to miss.
It took less than 20 minutes for Gordon, who practiced for the first time since Aug. 31, 2016, to look like the best receiver on the field.
“The guy is ultimate talent,” quarterback DeShone Kizer said. “We all know it. It is time for him to step in and play his role on this team.”
Gordon, now 26, moved effortlessly as he ran routes and one time he had to slow up to catch a ball on a double-move deep route. His only hiccup during the portion of practice open to reporters came when he slipped during a route but he quickly regained his feet and finished the rep.
“You could just see there was a different spirit in practice,” head coach Hue Jackson said. “With him running around, there is different competition – the receiver versus the corner. That is nothing to say against the guys who are here. Josh is just a different talent. I think we all recognized that and appreciate that. I think his teammates see it.
“He is a really good player. As I told him today, he is going to earn it. There are a lot of things he has to continue to do and work through, and I think he is willing to do that.”
Jackson likened him to another receiver he used to coach – Bengals wide out A.J. Green.
“This guy, he is different. He just really is,” Jackson said. “It is fun to talk about him right now, but I really don’t have him in a game yet. I think next week I will probably be too excited….It is fun to have a guy as talented as he is back on our football team. We will see what we can do with him next week.”
Gordon was conditionally reinstated by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Nov. 1 and he is eligible to play the final 5 games of the regular season.
Gordon has been suspended for the last 43 regular season games and 53 of the past 58 because of multiple violations of the NFL’s policy on substances of abuse.
Gordon returned to the Browns on Nov. 7 and he is eligible to be activated next Monday and play Sunday, Dec. 3 at Los Angeles against the Chargers.
“He is a heck of a player, and I’m looking forward to when he is back out there for us,” Kizer said. “For now, Josh unfortunately isn’t able to play with us this week. My only priority right now is winning this week. Once he gets back out there, I look forward to watching him play well again.”
Change of Heart – Over the course of the last year Jackson has gone from being done with Gordon to being downright giddy about his return.
Jackson explained in detail Wednesday what changed for him and his perception of the situation.
“I was. I want you to know that. I was in the fact that for the football team a year ago, I thought it was important to really establish a culture here that was right and strong. If somebody was not going to be here, then I need to move on beyond that and we did,” Jackson said. “I was [done] based on what the situation was at that time. Then since then, understanding and truly getting – let’s be honest, what this man has dealt with is a disease. It happens and it affects a lot of people in the world. I had to first educate myself and what he was going through and what he was dealing with. I have not had a lot of exposure to him other than what I knew. Then once I understood it better and watched him earn the right to be back in this building – again, I was able to monitor, was not able to talk to him but was able to monitor what he was doing and understood what he was going through; I felt more comfortable of understanding what was going on.
“If this was just another one of those fly by situations where he was going to be in and then back out again, I would not want any part of that – I do not think that is fair to the team; I do not think it is fair to the staff; and I do not think it is fair to the fans. I really do not because he is a very talented player. I truly believe this young man is working at. He still has to earn that from his teammates, from the coaches, from the fans and from you. That is what I think he understands now. He is in a lot better place now and a lot better place to have people assist him through this process.”
Injury Report – DNP: S Jabrill Peppers (ankle), S Derron Smith (knee), WR Sammie Coates (knee/ankle); LIMITED: WR Kenny Britt (knee), RB Isaiah Crowell (shoulder), C JC Tretter (shoulder)