Browns No. 1 receiver Josh Gordon started his second season by dropping the ball.
Gordon was suspended without pay for the team’s first two regular-season games for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, the NFL announced Friday afternoon.
He was also fined two additional game checks. He will forfeit $148,894 of his $632,802 base salary.
Gordon was dismissed from the Baylor team after failing two tests for marijuana, then failed another test after transferring to Utah. He hastily entered the supplemental draft last year, and then-general manager Tom Heckert selected him in the second round in July.
The NFL doesn’t reveal the nature of the drug in the failed test. But Gordon offered an explanation.
“In February, I was diagnosed with strep throat for which a doctor prescribed antibiotics and cough medicine,” Gordon said in a statement. “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 preseason, and contributing immediately when I return in week three.”
Gordon is eligible to practice and play throughout the preseason, then can return to the team Sept. 16, the Monday of Week 3. He will miss the opener vs. Miami and Week 2 in Baltimore. The Browns travel to Minnesota in Week 3.
Gordon practiced during the offseason workouts as he normally does. He made several plays, dropped a few balls and looked distracted at times.
Gordon is usually accommodating to the media, but avoided reporters this week in the three-day minicamp as rumors swirled of an impending suspension.
Coach Rob Chudzinski was asked Tuesday about speculation one of his players faced a possible suspension.
“I don’t know anything about that,” he said.
Gordon is the second Browns player suspended for failing a drug test in the last two years. Cornerback Joe Haden missed the first four games of 2012 and blamed it on taking the stimulant Adderall, which can be prescribed to treat ADHD. The Browns went 0-4.
“Obviously we are all disappointed in this news,” Chudzinski said in a statement Friday. “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.”
The Browns will miss Gordon, especially as they try to get off to a fast start in Chudzinski’s first year. But for the first time in years, the Browns may have the depth to survive with Greg Little, Davone Bess, Travis Benjamin and David Nelson.
Gordon, 22, vowed to leave the trouble behind when he arrived for training camp last year. He took awhile to get up to speed with life in NFL, but eventually made an impact on the field.
He was Cleveland’s top deep threat and caught 50 passes for 805 yards (a 16.1-yard average) and five touchdowns. He remained productive following a critical fourth-quarter drop near the goal line in a loss to Indianapolis early in the season and started 13 games.
CEO Joe Banner knows the numbers, but said Gordon still must prove he was worth the second-round pick spent on him.
“A top-of-the-second-round pick on a wide receiver you would hope by the second or third year you’d have a big, big impact player,” Banner said at the combine. “I think he still has improvements you could make and there’s hope that he can do that. He’s still got to grow and work hard in order to answer that question.”
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