By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
This week’s mailbag brought a load of questions about Josh Gordon and his response to his two-game suspension and additional two-game fine for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Gordon wrote in a statement that he was prescribed medicine for a strep throat in February and he believes using cough medicine that contained the banned substance codeine was responsible for his suspension. The league has not commented on Gordon’s story.
Hey Tony: I know you are a big fan of Josh Gordon, which I am as well, so I would like your take on everything that has been said concerning his suspension and reputation. If it was Codeine why is he getting a year suspension for another failed drug test? Joe Haden didn't get such a threat. I didn't think college suspensions could carry over to the NFL. I also heard that Josh Gordon likes to "loaf" around the field without any backlash from the coaching staff. Have you seen any "loafing"? Thanks.
-- Eliot, Cape Coral, FL
Hey Eliot: The NFL and players association have this convenient agreement of “confidentiality” when it comes to substance abuse violations. The league agrees not to identify the exact nature of the violation and then it stands back and allows the player or his agent to make any statement they wish. Do you really think the NFL would suspend and fine a player for using cough medicine? One thing to remember: Gordon changed agents last year to Drew Rosenhaus. Rosenhaus is particularly adept at exploiting loopholes, arguing appeals and crafting damage control statements for his clients. My feeling is the league – and the union – should be more transparent in explaining why a player is suspended and the circumstances of why a player’s suspension deviates from the norm, as Gordon’s did. Until there is transparency, every suspension is subject to wild conjecture and public skepticism. As for a potential suspension for another failed drug test, the league has not commented. The league’s substance abuse policy is byzantine and purposely complex after undergoing numerous revisions. Based on the language in the policy, it is very difficult to predict what would happen to Gordon if he failed another test. I have heard six-game suspension, eight-game, and a full calendar year. As for Gordon reportedly loafing at practice, I have neither seen it nor heard any coach complain of it.
Hey Tony: In light of Josh Gordon's suspension, I have to wonder what role, if any, agents play in keeping their clients on the straight and narrow. Would they not have a financial interest to make sure their clients are educated, and make sure their doctors/pharmacists have a list of substances to avoid prescribing, or at the very least, raise a red flag first? Do agents get involved in such matters, or do they only focus on negotiating contracts? Is an agent's compensation affected at all by player fines and suspensions? I'm guessing, "not".
-- Terry, Fairfax, VA
Hey Terry: As in every profession, there are good agents and bad agents. The good ones take a more proactive role in not only protecting their clients but in educating them, too. Many players, however, simply do not listen or even resist such “life coaching.” Even an agent can’t be with a player all the time and can’t shield the player totally from bad influences. Some agents won’t even take on high-risk players with drug or abuse histories. And, yes, an agent’s compensation is unaffected directly by a client’s suspension or fine. But a repeat offender certainly reduces his earning power in his next contract, and that has a direct impact on his agent.
Hey Tony: If Josh Gordon took codeine as prescribed by a doctor in the offseason to treat a sore throat -- why is he being suspended and fined an additional 2 pay checks? Also, do the Browns front office have any plans to fight the suspension? I am also surprised that Gordon just rolled over, and took the punishment. As a fan, I find it absurd that the NFL won't allow Gordon to treat a sore throat, but he is encouraged by the NFL to lay his body on the line for the sake of my entertainment dollar. Let the guy have some cough syrup and smoke some weed!
-Kevin, Boston, MA
Hey Kevin: The gist of your questions was covered in my first answer in this column. The new point you bring up is the idea of a club fighting a suspension. I believe this is not allowable under the league bargaining agreement.
Hey Tony: Is Josh Gordon the Ghost of Highly Talented, but Untrustworthy Drafts Past of Charles White, William Green, and Kellen Winslow Jr.? Given Agent Rosenhaus’record should we expect a Summer Camp/Pre-season hold out by Gordon for a salary increase to make up what he lost and more from his NFL penalty?
-- Alan, Manassas, VA
Hey Alan: Gordon’s track record of failed drug tests at Baylor and Utah was widely known, but his talent and potential were irresistible to former GM Tom Heckert. Don’t worry about a holdout. It’s not going to happen.
Hey Tony: Now that the news that if Josh Gordon fails another drug test he could be suspended for a whole season, if not longer, do you think he was still worth the risk of taking him? I do.
-- Angelo, Cleveland, OH
Hey Angelo: Gordon’s physical skills might be the best I’ve ever seen in a Browns uniform. That doesn’t make him the best receiver I’ve seen; that depends on him developing those skills with preparation, hard work, discipline and dedication. Right now, he can either way – boom or bust.
Hey Tony: Who do you think will get the most looks in Gordon's place for the first two weeks of the season?
- Josh, Galena, Ohio
Hey Josh: If everyone’s healthy, I see more playing time for David Nelson and Travis Benjamin during Gordon’s two game suspension. I suspect the starters would be Greg Little and Davone Bess.
Hey Tony: What are the team’s rules for player health care? Are they permitted to see any doctor they choose, or is there a list of doctors affiliated with the team or the Cleveland Clinic they are encouraged to go to? If there was some kind of team policy identifying approved doctors then Gordon’s statement would be BS, no team affiliated doctor would prescribe a banned substance. Thanks for any info you can provide on this.
-- Bill, Greensboro, NC
Hey Bill: This is covered in the league bargaining agreement and is not a team-by-team decision. Every player is entitled to get a second opinion on any injury or ailment from an independent doctor of his choosing. In Gordon’s case, he claimed he was treated for strep throat in February. In that period of time, he would be outside the auspices of the Browns’ team doctor unless he was in town and specifically sought the team doctor to treat him.
Hey Tony: As an ESPN contributor, I'm sure you're aware of this "all-time greatest coaches list" they are slowly revealing all around ESPN's network. So ... Paul Brown at Number 6?! I would entertain the possibility of Mr. Brown being ranked behind Vince Lombardi (although not on my list) but SIX!? I'm not a journalist, so please represent us Browns fans by writing something explaining this nonsense.
-- Matt, Brooklyn, NY
Hey Matt: It’s a travesty. My top five would be:
3. Chuck Noll
4. Bill Walsh
5. Joe Gibbs
Hey Tony: Should we be bothered that the Browns have not signed Barkevious Mingo or Leon McFadden yet? Joe Banner is a notorious penny pincher and it concerns me somewhat that we have not heard a thing about getting these guys under contract. Also, does Josh Gordon's loss of four paychecks to start the season affect the Browns salary cap in any way?
-- Jerry, Alameda, CA
Hey Jerry: The new collective bargaining agreement in 2011 adopted a stricter rookie salary structure that virtually eliminates rookie holdouts. The top-tiered players may bicker about so-called offset language, but the parameters of rookie contracts are essentially written for every draft slot. The Browns have not aggressively pursued getting their rookies under contract yet, I was told. That process should heat up in the month of July. Gordon’s four-game fine does not affect the salary cap at all.
Hey Tony: One of the draft choices by the Browns who interested me was from a small college where he played offensive tackle. His name is Garrett Gilkey. He was invited to I believe the Senior Bowl where he was switched to offensive guard. As I was trying to look up everything I could about him, I read where Garrett had a great game in the Senior Bowl. Another video shows Garrett bench pressing 500 lbs. In your opinion is this a significant amount of weight to bench press or are there several guys who can lift this much or more? I know offensive and defensive linemen probably are not going to stand out in the minicamps but I was curious if anyone has mentioned Garrett and how he's doing?
-- Greg, Middletown, OH
Hey Greg: Gilkey is a developmental prospect who improved his draft status with a fine showing at the Senior Bowl, as you point out. Garrett may have “maxed out” at 500 pounds in the bench, but players are measured at the combine at how many times they can lift 225 pounds. You are right that linemen can’t be adequately evaluated until the offseason hitting restrictions are lifted at training camp.
Hey Tony: I've noticed that Ryan Miller's name has NOT been mentioned much in the OG discussion. Why is that?
-- Kevin, Youngstown, OH
Hey Kevin: Miller was positioned at tackle as a rookie. It appears that is where he is earmarked this year, too. The fact the Browns retained George Warhop as offensive line coach bodes well for Miller, I believe. He’s a developmental prospect working to be ready when opportunity calls.
Hey Tony: Given that players brought in by the current regime typically fare better than backup or role players acquired by the former GM/coaches, what is your prognosis for Jordan Norwood, Josh Cooper, and Ryan Miller - numbers casualties, not good enough, or good chance to make this year's team? Who is your sleeper for us to watch this year in training camp?
-- D A, Centreville, VA
Hey D A: I’ve already tabbed safety Johnson Bademosi as my pre-training camp sleeper. I reserve the right to change my mind prior to my official training camp preview. Norwood and Cooper have their work cut out for them, more so than Miller, I believe, because they have a new position coach to impress whereas Miller has the same one from last year.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
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 firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi