We’ve been here before.
The phrase “Josh Gordon has been reinstated with hopes of leaving his troubled past behind” isn’t specific to one season. The Cleveland Browns wideout has made numerous returns from suspension, with each ending the same way – more run-ins with NFL discipline.
Considering this, it’s alarming how many Browns fans were quick to celebrate last week’s announcement of another reinstatement for Gordon. It was as if this time was going to be different. This woebegone franchise just got a Pro Bowl receiver back, a clear sign brighter days are ahead.
As Gordon made his return to the team facility yesterday, I was blown away by how many were ready to believe the talented receiver will be here to stay this time. Surely, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. To me, though, it doesn’t make any sense to trust Gordon. Not yet, at least.
I do want to acknowledge the fact there are aspects of this return which are significantly different than previous attempts. For one, despite a history of substance violations, this is the first time Gordon has admitted he had a problem.
Every other suspension has been coupled with excuses. He didn’t do any drugs, it was just second-hand smoke. He was very sick, that’s why there was codeine in his system. He didn’t know alcohol was one of the substances he couldn’t be around.
It was as if it didn’t matter how many times Gordon ran into trouble, it was always someone else’s fault or some minor issue being overblown.
This time, though, he’s been startlingly open. Features with GQ and Uninterrupted painted Gordon as someone who realized just how big of a problem he had, who was more than willing to go into the gritty details. This level of honesty had yet to be seen, and it’s certainly significant.
Even with this development, I still think it’s too early to assume Gordon will stay on the right path and become an impact player for this team again.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly not to discount any personal progress he’s made. At the same time, how can we trust him until he proves it?
It’s easy to win a press conference. Just ask Johnny Manziel. Gordon can sound like a changed man in front of the media as he did today, he can claim he’s clean and ready to return to his Pro Bowl ways.
Until it actually happens, though, it’s just talk.
He’s made similar claims in the past, but they’ve all been followed by more time off the field. His brief appearances with the team over the past three years featured plenty of loafing and only a handful of impact moments. He hasn’t played a down of regular season football in three years, and has yet to look anything like the record-breaking wideout we saw in 2013.
Bottom line – Gordon hasn’t proven he can be trusted to stay out of trouble or replicate his Pro Bowl breakthrough. There wasn’t a single thing he could’ve uttered today which made you think this time will be any different. Until I actually see him turn words into action, I can’t trust him when he says he’s finally learned his lesson.
I want to, though. I want to be proven wrong. I want to see him come back, stay clean and meet his potential. I want him to have a successful career, and it’d be great if it happened in Cleveland.
I’m not rooting against Gordon, I’m just wary to put my faith in a guy who’s done nothing but fail to cash in on second chances. Should he actually get back on the field this season and look like the guy who took the league by storm four years ago, then I’ll wholeheartedly admit I was wrong. That those who believe in him today were right to do so.
I just need to see proof Gordon actually means it when he tells us things will be different. All I’ve seen when he’s claimed this before was more of the same.
Here’s hoping he means it this time.
Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Subscribe to his podcast, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook