Analyzing Josh Gordon’s 2 Game Suspension


December 30, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon (13) on the field before playing the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. The Pittsburgh Steelers won 24-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Gordon was suspended for the first 2 games of the 2013-14 NFL Season and fined 4 game checks for violating the substance abuse policy. This comes off his rookie year where Gordon flashed signs that he could be the Browns #1 receiver in the not so distant future and what seemed to be a relatively clean off-field year. The off-field success as a rookie was seen as important as his development in learning to read defenses and run routes following significant trouble at Baylor and Utah, specifically use of marijuana. During preparation for the supplemental draft media reports said that Gordon failed 2 or 3 drug tests while with Baylor and/or Utah. Gordon later divulged that the number was closer to 10 or more. His honesty and willingness to address his issues head on, as well as his ability to stretch the field, led to the Browns choosing the receiver in the 2nd round of the supplemental draft, therefore forfeiting their 2nd round pick in the just completed 2013 NFL Draft. His rookie campaign and the other wide receivers in the draft showed that from a talent perspective this was a good investment for the team. However early in the spring rumors started, similar to those started last year with Joe Haden before he was suspended, that Gordon had failed some type of drug test and would be suspended. The details of the suspension are important and I will review along with my professional take as a counselor including much work with substance abusers.

What do we know, or think we know:

1.  This was his second positive test for a substance of abuse. The first is never made public or disciplined.

2.  The substances for his 2 positive tests were substances of abuse, not performances enhancers such a PEDs, steroids or amphetamines like Joe Haden’s Adderall suspension.

3.  He may have provided a prescription to the league leading the league to suspended him for 2 not 4 games. That he was fined for 4 games also hints toward that.

4.  Codeine is the primary substance of concern in cough medicine and is a significant problem with teenagers that I have worked with. Often this liquid is drank directly or mixed with other drinks to heighten the impact. On the street also refered to as Syrup or Purple Drink for its primary color.

5.  All substance abusers I have worked with, and are trying to stay clean, are made aware to and make efforts to inform all medical personnel of their history. This allows the doctors to prescribe non-addictive, non-abused medicines so as to best serve their patient. This is generally used in relation to cough medicines and pain killers (Opiates).

6.  There are non-Codeine cough medicines that have similar relief qualities.

7.  Gordon is a young player with a spotted history of behavior


The last point is very important to remember and the reason I chose the picture at the top of this article that showed his face not hidden by his helmet. While never looking to make excuses its important to remember that Gordon is a young player who has a history of making mistakes. As a counselor I would be less concerned about his use of codeine based cough syrup and more concerned about the first, and unreported positive test. Being sick and taking what the doctor prescribed, and not connecting the need to share about his substance history, is not surprising. If it was strep throat as he claims his focus was on feeling better, I can understand that; strep is not a fun experience. That he had a unreported positive test for a substance of abuse is a concern: When was the test? What was he positive for? What steps has he taken following that?

That is my perspective as a counselor, and while I can’t always separate the two, as a fan I am frustrated and concerned. Gordon was a risky pick when we drafted him but showed loads of talent. The new Front Office more then likely ignored trying to sign or trade for  a big time wide receiver because of the possibilities Gordon posses. Young people tend to grow up, but will Gordon be able to do so in time to still be with the Browns and make the impact his rookie season hinted at? Will Cleveland fans get tired of getting disappointed by the players on our teams, now both on and off the field?

Hopefully Gordon gets the help he needs. Hopefully the Browns put the support around him to be successful, even though he was not a draft pick of the new Front Office. Hopefully both the counselor in me and the fan in me can move on and get excited and celebrate with Gordon when he returns to the field, just like we did Joe Haden last fall after his 4 game suspension.