BEREA — Josh Gordon can be frustrating to watch practice.
He doesn’t always run at top speed. He will give up on a route. He often stops as soon as the play’s over, then takes his time getting back to the huddle.
But the second-year receiver disagrees with the notion he loafs.
“I mean certain people see different things when they look at me run or look at me move,” he said Saturday after practice. “It might look slow ‘cause I’m a little bit larger to play at my position. So it might be a little bit deceptive, hard to look at it.
“But I go out here 100 percent every day I come out here.”
Gordon (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) hadn’t done a group interview since the run-up to camp, when he first discussed the two-game suspension he will serve to start the season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. On Saturday, the subjects that put Gordon on the defensive were his effort and work ethic.
Gordon has been compared during training camp with fellow starting receiver Greg Little, who’s stayed late after nearly every practice to run routes with quarterback Brandon Weeden and/or catch balls from the JUGS machine. Gordon’s overtime shift hasn’t been as obvious.
“We actually take some of the same regimens and routines from each other, different days are different things,” Gordon said. “We pretty much have some of the same work ethics, but he’s doing a great job.”
Gordon’s practice habits were first a popular topic when he arrived in camp last year fresh off being taken in the second round of the supplemental draft.
Then-coach Pat Shurmur liked and supported Gordon but talked about his need to learn how to practice in the NFL, especially after Gordon missed his junior season when he was dismissed from Baylor for failing multiple drug tests. The coaches were all over Gordon in the quest for consistent effort.
A year later, the new staff is being asked similar questions. Receivers coach Scott Turner, the son of coordinator Norv, understands why, but doesn’t agree with the premise.
“It’s interesting because it took me awhile to kind of get used to it and I know what you’re saying,” Turner said of Gordon’s seeming lack of urgency. “But Josh is a guy that’s got a real smooth running style and you look at him and you think he’s not running hard, then you put the tape on and the corner that’s running with him who you know is fast has got his head tilted back, running as hard as he can and he can’t keep up with him. A little bit of that can be deceiving, just on Josh’s long strides and stuff like that.
“And the other thing is, in this offense we run a lot of down-the-field routes and we push those guys. So sometimes he needs to push through, he’s tired and a little bit can be some of that. He’s a young player, he’s really learning how to work and become a real threat. I’ve been happy with Josh and what he’s done so far, and I’m excited about his future in this league.”
Turner said he isn’t any harder on Gordon than the rest of his wideouts.
“He’s a little bit more of a high-profile guy, and he gets some criticism,” Turner said. “But, no, he makes plays and he has some mistakes, too, like a lot of the other guys.”
Gordon may be getting the message. He’s also becoming more comfortable in a new offensive system. He just concluded his best week of practice.
In one session, he reached behind him to make a one-hand grab look easy and jumped high for another smooth one-hander. He has had a newfound pep in his step.
“He’s playing faster and I think the nice thing about Josh this year is he’s communicating,” Weeden said. “I think if he plays fast, he’s got a lot of ability and he’s a big target, a guy that creates some mismatches.
“I’ll talk to him, but I can’t really say I get on him. You’ve got to know how to handle each guy. You’ve just got to tell them what you expect and tell them what you see.”
Gordon missed a practice early in camp with patellar tendinitis and was limited when he returned, but says he’s fine and the knee is back where he wants it to be. He started Thursday against the Rams in the preseason opener and caught two passes for 27 yards in two series that generated 10 points.
“Tendinitis is pretty much from a heavy workload, just moving a lot off the right foot, planting and stuff like that,” he said. “But really, it’s nothing more than just maintenance work, just stretching, taking care of it when I need to, just ice and stuff. Nothing more than what I can handle.”
Gordon hasn’t had an easy time dealing with the suspension.
The front office, coaches and some teammates let him know he can’t afford many, if any, more mistakes. And no matter what he accomplishes in the preseason, he must leave the team for two weeks when the games start to count.
He said he’s been able to maintain focus.
“I just go out here and get as many reps as I can, mental reps and stay in shape. And to me, these are my games,” he said. “There are pretty much my first games of the season, so I’m taking them as serious as anybody else would.”
Turner believes Gordon’s mind is right.
“He’s working and he’s doing the things he’s asked to do and he’s really progressing,” he said. “I’m excited about him as a player.
“And the other stuff (suspension), it’s obviously disappointing, but he seemed to kind of put it behind him and he wants to prove he’s going to be a good player in this league.”
It starts on the practice field.
Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.