But this much is clear: Gordon has looked at times in practice as if he expects to lose his appeal of his yearlong suspension.
Either that or he’s just his usual self.
Not to say that Gordon is not giving effort. But his involvement with the offense and his approach to recent practices bring to mind the criticism a year ago that he is lazy in practice. Keep in mind that former Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner blistered that criticism and staunchly defended Gordon, who rarely goes 140 mph in practice but led the league in receiving yards (in 14 games) in 2013.
In short, Gordon presents the same conundrum in the small picture that he presents in the big one: His immense talent brings risks, and because of his immense talent the slightest lackadaisical effort takes on large meanings.
Gordon will argue at an appeal hearing on Aug. 1 in New York that he was the victim of secondhand marijuana smoke and that his test results were questionable and inconsistent between two samples, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. What happens is anyone’s guess. Clearly the public negativity toward Ray Rice's two-game suspension for allegedly knocking out his then-fiancée creates the perception that Gordon’s penalty is excessive. But the substance-abuse penalties were negotiated in the collective bargaining agreement and the personal conduct decisions are up to commissioner Roger Goodell. Gordon has hired a high-powered attorney to plead his case.
On the field, Gordon is not getting all his reps with the starters, and he has loafed through some routes. On Tuesday, he wisely backed off a route that would have led to a serious collision with a safety, something nobody wants in practice. But other times, he has not gone all-out; he has given up on routes; he has not extended himself; and he has let passes go through his hands.
There is no mistaking the reality that the Browns have Gordon practicing with different units. If things were normal, Gordon and Miles Austin would be paired with Jordan Cameron to form an impressive pass-catching trio.
But things are not normal.
Sometimes Gordon lines up with the 2s, sometimes the 3s. It’s only occasionally that he’s with the starters. The team is caught in the middle and has to protect itself if Gordon is suspended. It’s a tough balancing act. The Browns can’t give him all the reps ahead of others who will be around, but they also have to get Gordon ready in case he avoids suspension.
It's understandable if he is distracted and his mind is on the hearing, but Gordon has to cooperate by going all-out in the reps he does receive. Occasionally, he does. On Monday, QB Johnny Manziel badly underthrew Gordon on a fade. DB T.J. Heath was all over Gordon. But Gordon stopped and simply outmuscled and outmaneuvered Heath to make the catch. It was tough to imagine any other Browns receiver making that catch, but it was also tough to see Gordon make it, knowing he might not be around in September to make similar catches in games.