September 23, 2014

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Josh Gordon grateful for chance with Browns

BEREA – Josh Gordon was tired, and his head was swimming after nearly non-stop instruction from the coaches in his first practice as a Brown.

He had no time to gripe. He was too busy being grateful.

Browns' wide receiver Josh Gordon in action. (AP FILE PHOTO)

“There were a lot of days I thought I wouldn’t make it here,” he said Wednesday. “I was thinking I was going to have to work a 9-to-5 trying to get back into school. That was my main concern.

“Now the fact that this is my new 9-to-5, it definitely is something I’m in shock about. And it’s going to take awhile. It hasn’t even hit me or settled in yet exactly as to the opportunity I have out here with these guys.”

The Browns opened training camp with a rookie practice, and Gordon was the story. He’s the newest addition to the team after being selected July 12 in the second round of the supplemental draft. The Browns forfeited a second-round pick in the 2013 draft, so they expect a lot out of the 6-foot-3, 225-pound receiver.

The selection would’ve drawn scrutiny regardless, but Gordon’s checkered past will certainly increase the intensity of the spotlight. He admitted Wednesday to a failed drug test last year at Utah, which brings the total to three since 2010. He was suspended by Baylor indefinitely in 2011 for failing a second test for marijuana and transferred to Utah.

“It’s definitely something I want to get past,” Gordon said. “Coming out here, I have a new experience, a new foundation to get started and I don’t really plan on looking back in the past anymore. I only look toward my future.

“For me, just having an opportunity to be out here is definitely all the motivation I need to feel as though I need to stay on the right path. Seeing as I’m already a guy with a spotty background, it would make no sense to go back to doing the stuff that I was doing. I have no thoughts of ever trying to be that person or be the bad guy that everybody knows. I don’t want to be that person.”

The Browns believe Gordon has changed. General manager Tom Heckert said he did an extensive background check before the draft and came away convinced he won’t be a problem.

“People have things that happen in their background, some adversity, and I think it’s fair to say that if they can overcome that it makes them stronger in some ways,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “We anticipate that this will not be an issue, we are going to watch it closely and I think he understands how important it is to be a good teammate and be a good pro.”

Gordon didn’t shy away from answering questions about his previous problems. He went through the same discussion with the Browns and convinced them to take the chance.

“I’m definitely a changed person,” he said. “The things that happened were such a long time ago and the fact that there’s this many people in such a prestigious organization like this putting their jobs and their necks out on the line for a guy like me, it says a lot about them and their character and I just want to meet them halfway on that agreement. And if they’re going to be willing to do this for me, I just want to be willing to reciprocate with the same thing.”

Gordon received a ton of attention Wednesday, and not just from the media.

President Mike Holmgren watched from the sideline, then had a few words for him. Shurmur, receivers coach Mike Wilson and senior offensive assistant Nolan Cromwell took turns critiquing each route.

“Let those strides go, Josh,” Shurmur said before Wilson demonstrated the proper technique.

Gordon didn’t play the 2011 season after transferring to Utah — though he did practice with the team –– and didn’t participate in the Browns’ offseason workouts. So the crash course is necessary.

“They’re just making sure I do everything the right way,” he said. “If they see something wrong, or something I could adjust, whether it’s a split or the way I get in and out of a break or something like that, they just want to give their input on every specific detail. I appreciate that because I need to learn as much as I can to continue to catch up.”

Gordon’s combination of size and speed (4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash) made him enticing to the Browns. He addressed a position of need and will be given the opportunity to play right away, perhaps even a starting job opposite Greg Little.

“He’s a big kid that has a lot of tools,” quarterback Brandon Weeden said. “I’m anxious to see him keep learning and keep growing because I think there’s a lot of ability there.”

Gordon caught 42 passes for 714 yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore at Baylor in 2010.

“As you can see, he’s a very good-looking young man,” Shurmur said. “He’s over 6-3, 225, he catches the ball extremely well and we’re going to bring him along. The first impressions were that he’s got a chance to be a good player.

“From what I can tell already, he is a quick learner. We’ve kind of amped it up for him so we could get him going quickly. It’s obvious to me that he understands how to play the position. He gets lined up well, understands coverage adjustments. It’s just a matter of him getting familiar with our terminology. We’ll see how quickly he can do it and we’ll throw him in with the rest of the guys and I think it will be obvious to all of us.”

Gordon said he doesn’t feel like the year without games will be a detriment – “Football is something I’ve done my whole life, so if anything I feel like it’s riding a bike almost,” he said – and thinks he can help the team as a rookie. He plans to learn from the veterans and keep studying his playbook.

“I wouldn’t like to just throw myself into one category and say possession or just say deep threat,” he said. “I want to just, if I could, label myself as a playmaker, another body out there to help utilize on offense and get some plays going and help maximize what we can do.”

Gordon pulled a quadriceps muscle during his pre-draft workout. He participated throughout practice Wednesday but said he was taking “baby steps.”

“The leg is fine,” he said. “Just heeding our trainers, want to make sure we do all the things the right way so I can come back with a full recovery.”

A tiny comeback story within a much larger one.

Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.