Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
Back to business: Suspended Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon has applied to the NFL office for reinstatement, confirmed a source with knowledge of the process who requested anonymity because of the league’s confidentiality rules.
Gordon’s fate will be known within 60 days of the receipt of his application, per rules of the reinstatement process.
Gordon was banished indefinitely on Feb. 3, 2015 for violating the league’s policy on substances of abuse while in Stage Three of the NFL intervention program. It was Gordon’s third league suspension in three years.
Terms of the suspension allow Gordon to apply for reinstatement as early as 60 days prior to the one-year anniversary of the date of the letter informing him of his banishment.
Gordon has done that, said the source, and now the process has been set in motion for the holder of three Browns franchise receiving records to rejoin the team for the 2016 season.
Gordon’s contract tolled – or rolled into an additional year -- during his suspension. He is under the Browns’ control for 2016. If reinstated, Gordon can become a restricted free agent in 2017.
Long road back: Gordon received an indefinite suspension after he failed a test for alcohol following the 2014 season. He was being tested for alcohol – and other substances -- per terms of his reinstatement from a 10-game league suspension in 2014. He had a DWI arrest in Raleigh, NC, on July 4, 2014, and he agreed to alcohol testing in exchange for reducing a 12-game suspension to 10 games.
In a letter posted on The Cauldron, an online magazine, Gordon wrote that he consumed two beers and two drinks on a private flight to Las Vegas with several teammates on Jan. 2, 2015. Upon landing, he was notified to report to a testing location within four hours, and the test for alcohol came up positive.
“It was the first time I had consumed so much as a drop of alcohol since July 4, 2014, the day of the DWI,” Gordon wrote.
Gordon wrote that he thought the league-imposed alcohol ban expired at the end of the regular season. He wrote that he didn’t confirm it.
The process for reinstatement is elaborate.
Within 45 days of the receipt of Gordon’s application, he will be interviewed by NFL Medical Director Dr. J. Richard Spatafora and Medical Advisor Dr. Lawrence Brown.
The league policy states: “The Player will execute appropriate medical release forms that will enable the Commissioner’s staff and NFLPA Executive Director’s staff to review the Player’s substance abuse history, including but not limited to attendance at counseling sessions (individual, group and family); attendance at 12-step and other self-help group meetings; periodic progress reports; and all diagnostic findings and treatment recommendations.”
In an email response, Greg Aiello, NFL spokesman, wrote, “To be reinstated, a player must demonstrate sustained abstinence. In support of their applications, players generally put forward verifiable testing records and/or submit to periodic NFL testing during the banishment period.”
The medical director and medical advisor will make a recommendation. Commissioner Roger Goodell will render a decision within 60 days of the receipt of Gordon’s application.
Browns non-commital: Before he entered the NFL, Gordon had a history of marijuana use that resulted in suspensions at Baylor University and Utah. He was selected by then-Browns GM Tom Heckert in the 2012 NFL supplemental draft at the expense of the team’s second-round pick in the 2013 regular draft.
In 2013, Gordon led the NFL with 1,646 receiving yards on 87 receptions in only 14 games. That year, he set or tied Browns records for receptions in a game (14), receiving yards in a game (261) and yards in a season (1,646).
Still, former Browns CEO Joe Banner has said he had a trade of Gordon arranged during that season. Reportedly, owner Jimmy Haslam vetoed it.
Substance abuse violations resulted in a two-game suspension of Gordon in 2013, 10 games in 2014 and 16 games in 2015. He also was suspended by the Browns for the final game in 2014 after he was late for a walk-through prior to the team’s departure to Baltimore for the final game of that season.
Gordon reportedly had partied the night before with quarterback Johnny Manziel, who missed a scheduled injury rehab appointment the next morning and was also disciplined for the Baltimore game.
But if the immensely talented, 6-4, 220-pound Gordon is reinstated, he would provide new coach Hue Jackson with a big-time play-maker at wide receiver that was conspicuously absent in the two years of the regime of former GM Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine.
At his introductory press conference last week, Jackson said, “What I’m anxious to do is evaluate him just like we’re going to evaluate every player on our roster and see if they are the right fit for the Cleveland Browns. That’s what we have to do with every player, whether that’s Josh Gordon to whoever the last guy is on the roster.”
In 35 NFL games, Gordon has 161 receptions for 2,754 yards (17.1-yard average) and 14 touchdowns. He is 24 years old.