It was on May 10th, the second day of the NFL draft, when ESPN’s Outside The Lines first reported that Cleveland Browns wide receiver, Josh Gordon had tested positive for marijuana. Two sources from OTL reported that Gordon received a letter from a league physician in early winter stating the positive test result. Gordon reportedly then received another letter from the league is April, stating that he was facing a 16 game suspension and that he had the right to appeal. In the days following, Gordon was reached by phone and deferred any comment to his agent Drew Rosenhaus. On Monday, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com reported that not only is Gordon’s appeal process not underway but is not even on the NFL schedule yet. This comes as disconcerting news to the Browns, as they were hoping for a decision to come down soon. Browns head coach Mike Pettine had expressed his optimism for some finality to the issue before training camp began. The lack of any statement from the NFL and the delay in Gordon’s appeals process leaves the Browns in a state of uncertainty, which is harmful to their ability to prepare for the season.
There are several way to look at this news. The first, is the obvious disruption that it causes for the Browns. Not only does Gordon’s status remain a question mark, debilitating their ability to prepare but now the time frame becomes an issue for next season. With the appeal not even on the schedule at NFL headquarters, who knows when some resolution will come down? If Gordon does receive a 16 game suspension it will start right away. The sooner it starts the sooner it’s over. Gordon was said to be facing a 16 game suspension in the letter he received from the league but many news sources are now calling it a season long ban and would be good for a whole calendar year, which at this point means that it could carry over into next seasons training camp. “There’s certainly a level of frustration because we’ve known the news for so long,” Pettine told radio partner 92.3 The Fan. “It’s just a holding pattern and I understand that the league has a process that they have to go through and there’s other things that they’re dealing with and we respect that. But at the same time it is difficult because it really will affect our preparation for the season.” There is no real precedence for the timeline on the NFL’s appeals procedure. However, the NFL just finalized three player’s suspensions on May 30th and generally this process happens in a much more efficient fashion.
The other way to look at this is from the opposite perspective. I have stated from the beginning of this whole saga that we do not know the whole story and that there is something peculiar about the way this has played out. It was very unusual, the way that Browns GM Ray Farmer and Owner Jimmy Haslem had knowledge of Gordon’s positive test and kept the information from the coaching staff through the first round of the draft, while allowing Gordon to participate in multiple television and radio interviews, in which he spoke as if nothing was wrong. Since the initial OTL reports, the NFL has not released any statement whatsoever and now we learn they have neglected to even schedule the start of his appeals process. In regards to the lack of acknowledgment by the NFL, one would think that by now Gordon’s super-agent Rosenhaus would have spoken out about the fairness of leaving his client in limbo. Yet there has been no complaint from Rosenhaus, who himself initially denied any truth to the report completely, then changed his tune in the following days to a simple “No Comment” on the situation. Then, there was the radio show that former teammate Greg Little did, in which he eluded to the idea that Gordon was somehow not at complete fault and then surprisingly praised the Browns, a team that just cut him, for standing by Gordon.
The NFL may have their own reasons for staying quiet and putting off the appeals process but it is doing the Browns a huge disservice. Regardless, from the reporting of the positive test to the NFL’s lack of urgency in this matter, it hasn’t been close to anything resembling emblematic procedure. There has been no communication between Gordon’s camp and the NFL regarding a settlement thus far but it is possible that Rosenhaus and Gordon have a valid defense and the NFL is preparing for the appeal. Either way, the unorthodox handling of this matter could mean a number of things. It is hard to believe though, that the NFL would purposely put a team at a disadvantage, unless forced to for some reason. With nothing even on the NFL schedule yet, the powers that be must know they are impeding the Browns ability to prepare. This leaves us to ponder, why they would do such a thing unless there is some sort of underlying issue with Gordon’s case. Whether it be good or bad for Gordon, it certainly allows the imagination to run wild. One thing is for certain, there is more to this than any of us know.
By: Brad Ward
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