He’s not technically back out on the field yet—but he could be. The Cleveland Browns officially reinstated wide receiver Josh Gordon to their active roster yesterday several weeks after he voluntarily removed himself from the team in order to further contend with substance abuse issues that have threatened to permanently torpedo his professional career.
Being reinstated to the active roster, that means that Gordon is eligible to return to practice and to play in games. The only problem is that he is currently dealing with a hamstring injury. Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson said that he is unlikely to play the wide receiver in the team’s game on Thursday, but that the plan is still to have him back on the field for the regular season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The former second-round pick did participate in a walkthrough in a limited capacity, working with trainers on the side, but he is expected to be restricted for at least a few days while he gets back to full strength from the injury.
The Browns’ Thursday game in Detroit is their final preseason game, meaning that Gordon will have gone throughout the offseason process without participating in a game. Unlike previous seasons, however, he at least is not coming off a year of missing football entirely, as he did get back on the field in 2017 and even faced the Steelers in the regular season finale.
Still, even getting on the field for the walkthroughs is something that the Browns considered to be a big step, which is why they activated him now even though he is not ready to be a full participant. The team believes it’s important to help him re-acclimate back into the offense and with his teammates.
Cleveland is depending on him to be an important contributor with Jarvis Landry really the only other meaningful proven threat. The Pro Bowler is looking to shake off the stigma of being just a possession receiver, believing that he was limited by the Miami Dolphins’ offense and their quarterbacks.
Meanwhile, the potential number three receiver this year is rookie late-round pick Antonio Callaway, who has already gotten into trouble and is missing practice time due to injury. The team recently hosted Dez Bryant and reportedly offered him a one-year, $5 million contract, which he ostensibly declined.
Gordon returned to the field for the final five games of the 2017 season and averaged 67 yards per game, recording one touchdown (and nearly another in the finale against Pittsburgh). That is particularly impressive given that he had not participated in a meaningful game since 2014 prior to that.
He averaged 117.6 yards per game during the 2013 season, his second year, for which he was named a first-team All-Pro. Antonio Brown would have been first-team All-Pro that year had it not been for Gordon, but he has been in each year since.