Berea, Ohio — Nothing is guaranteed with Josh Gordon, equal parts mysterious and mesmerizing.
The wide receiver’s ill-fated career has included too many stops and starts, too many off-field issues to predict whether Gordon will ever fulfill his potential or return to Pro Bowl form or simply flame out — another oh-what-might-have-been casualty.
Gordon doesn’t know either, but on Monday in his first comments since returning from a three-week, self-imposed timeout to get counseling and treatment related to his drug and alcohol dependence, the 27-year-old vowed that — with support from others — he intends to stay around.
“I know I’m going to be here playing football, and anything outside of these walls, I think I have the right people in place to help me in any way in which I need them to help me,” he said.
Gordon, who has been sidelined for most of the past four seasons while serving NFL drug suspensions, didn’t provide any details about what pushed him to leave the Browns on July 26, just before the opening of training camp. It remains unclear if he had a relapse in his recovery or if the absence was related to a child support case.
Gordon began many of his answers with, “as it relates to football.” And as for the length of his leave, Gordon said there was no relevance to him returning on Aug. 18.
“I had no plan,” he said.
Gordon’s been limited since returning by a sore hamstring that will keep him out of Thursday’s exhibition finale against Detroit. The Browns hope to have him ready for the Sept. 9 opener against Pittsburgh.
Although one of pro football’s most gifted receivers, Gordon has been little more than an enigma since his breakout 2013 season, when he led the league with 1,646 yards receiving and scored nine touchdowns.
He’s been unable to conquer personal demons, costing him millions in potential earnings. And while he’s worked at staying sober, the Browns have patiently waited. Gordon has come back to the team before only to leave, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t happen again.
Gordon said he’s grateful for the unwavering backing, especially from teammates who say they only care for his personal well-being — and not what he brings to Cleveland’s offense.
“We all know he can play football,” running back Duke Johnson said. “We all know the kind of skills that he has. My thing with Josh will always be is him taking care of himself mentally and off the field what he’s doing when he’s not here.
“We all know he can play. A lot of people support him on the field. It’s our job as an organization, a team and a staff to support him off as well.”
As far as that support, Johnson said players will keep tabs on Gordon, not babysit him.
“We’re not going to treat Josh like a child,” Johnson said. “We’re not going to pop up and do surprise visits and call him 24-7. We know our teammates, or at least we try to, and when we feel that he needs us or we feel like we can help that’s when we jump in and help. But we’re not going to call him 24-7, not going to blow his phone up.
“We’re not going to treat him like a child because I feel him stepping back and getting himself mentally prepared for his life was a big step.”
Gordon’s thankful his teammates are looking out for him, and if he has to go it alone, he can.
“If they feel like caring for Josh today, great, if not, great,” he said. “I’m going to be all right and things will go as they should go. But I’m definitely happy to have them in and around my life in any type of way possible. Any way they want to be a part of it, I love those guys and I’m grateful to have them.”
When Gordon returned, coach Hue Jackson said he didn’t lose any trust in him. Gordon said the only way to maintain that confidence was through his behavior.
“The only thing you can do is walk it out and live out those actions on a daily basis,” he said. “I can’t make anybody feel any type of way about me. So that’s going to be on them. But me, I’ve got to keep doing me.”