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Despite history of marijuana, Browns WR Josh Gordon blames substance violation on cough medicine

Jun 07, 2013 -- 5:09pm


By Tony Grossi |



High risk met high reward for the Browns on Friday when Josh Gordon, their elite receiver-in-the-making, was suspended for the first two games of the season for violating the NFL substance abuse policy.

Gordon was also fined an additional two game checks.

In a statement, Gordon attributed a positive drug test to medication taken in February for strep throat. He said he took a prescribed antibiotic and cough medicine that contained codeine, which is a substance prohibited by the NFL.

The NFL does not identify what banned substance was involved when announcing violations of the drug policy.

Gordon said in a statement:

“In February, I was diagnosed with strep throat for which a doctor prescribed antibiotics and cough medicine. Apparently, the medicine I took contained codeine, which is prohibited by the NFL policy. The policy terms are strict about unintentional ingestion, but the NFL has not imposed the maximum punishment in light of the facts of my case. Therefore, I have chosen to be immediately accountable for the situation. I sincerely apologize for the impact on my team, coaches, and Browns fans. I look forward to working hard in training camp and pre-season, and contributing immediately when I return in week three.”

Gordon will miss the 2013 opener against Miami and Game 2 at Baltimore. He will be eligible to return to the Browns’ roster – and facility – on Monday, Sept. 16, according to a statement issued by the NFL.

Gordon is eligible to participate in all preseason practices and games.

In a statement issued by the Browns, coach Rob Chudzinski said, “Obviously we are all disappointed in this news. In our short time with Josh, he has done everything that we’ve asked him to do and he has exhibited substantial improvement. We believe that he will continue to work diligently through training camp and the preseason. I am confident that others will step up in his absence.”

Rumors of an impending suspension of were becoming more frequent in recent days. During minicamp, Gordon evaded media by slipping off the practice field unnoticed.

Gordon was kicked off both the Baylor and Utah football teams for testing positive for marijuana, sources said. Those transgressions caused him to hastily enter the NFL supplemental draft last summer despite not playing a college season since 2010.

Former Browns GM Tom Heckert was mesmerized by Gordon’s immense talent, however, and he spent “a long time” talking with Gordon and other sources. Convinced Gordon’s troubles were behind him, Heckert bid a second-round pick in 2013 to select Gordon in the 2012 supplemental draft.

Heckert then signed Gordon to a four-year contract for $5.342 million, with $3.8 million reportedly guaranteed. Some sources believed putting guaranteed money into Gordon’s hands would come back to haunt the Browns – and it did.

Gordon pledged not to let Heckert and the Browns down. He turned in a remarkable first year considering his inexperience and his force-feeding in training camp when he was out of playing shape. Gordon led the Browns with 805 receiving yards and five TD catches and his 50 receptions were third on the club.

Among 2012 rookie receivers, Gordon ranked fourth in catches, third in yards and tied for second in touchdowns.

He returned to the Browns in April looking even bigger than his 6-3 and 225 dimensions, and even more polished as a receiver in the team’s offseason practices, which concluded on Thursday.

Gordon changed agents after his rookie season, hiring Drew Rosenhaus.

“I thought he really had a made a change and figured it out,” said a source. “Josh spent a bunch of time in South Beach (Fla.) during spring break. He’s very easily influenced. I think he’s a kid that really wants to change. But at some point, you have to be responsible for your own actions.”

Gordon’s base salary for 2013 is $632,802. Losing four game checks will cost him $148,894.

Per terms of the league substance abuse policy, the Browns could retrieve 2/17 of Gordon's pro-rated signing bonus of $2.324 million. The pro-rated figure is $581,000 and 2/17 of that would amount to $68,352. Also, Gordon will be ineligible for any official NFL post-season award for the 2013 season, including the Pro Bowl.

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




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