BEREA, Ohio (AP) – Humbled, grateful and determined to make up for lost time and to those who stood by him, Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon stood on an NFL practice field and finally felt peace.
Surrounded by teammates eager to start a new season, Gordon was home.
This is where he belongs.
Recently reinstated by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell following a lengthy drug suspension, Gordon said he’s been changed by his experience over the past two years. He’s grown up, learned from his mistakes and is ready to be productive again.
“I definitely think I’m a different person,” he said. “If you haven’t changed over a period of time, it’s definitely a bad thing. I think me standing here is a testament to that.”
Gordon, who has been suspended for 27 of Cleveland’s 32 games over the past two seasons and suspended four times in his pro career, believes he can now stay on a straight path. The 25-year-old would not confirm if he’s been in rehab, but Gordon acknowledged “taking the necessary steps” to get his life in order.
During his 12-minute interview with media members, Gordon offered no excuses and didn’t make any promises. He acknowledged prior mistakes and admitted to not listening to others.
“In the past I’ve been a selfish player, I’ll definitely admit that,” he said. “I wanted to do things my way. As a young man that’s just kind of how you see it, you don’t really want to make time to do other things. But things turn around, people change, it’s possible to change. It takes people some learning, but eventually you get to that point and I think I have.”
The Browns are counting on it, and they intend to hold Gordon accountable for his actions.
After Goodell cleared his return, Gordon met with Cleveland coach Hue Jackson and vice president of football operations Sashi Brown, who laid out their expectations for the former Pro Bowler.
As he did during a meeting earlier this month with Goodell in New York, Gordon made a strong impression on the Browns, who are convinced he’s ready to turn his life around.
“For us it’s about Josh wanting to make a change, and having the opportunity,” Brown said. “We’ve got 90 guys on the roster right now and he’s one of those young men that has an opportunity. We’ll find out very quickly if he’s serious about it. We believe that he is. We’ll hold him accountable. He’s going to have to hold himself accountable.
“Frankly, let’s be honest, there’s nothing we’re going to be able to do to force Josh to change. The change is going to be within and we will support him through that.”
Jackson said Gordon’s future rests in his own hands.
“We understand that the league has expectations for him, and we do, too,” Jackson said. “We shared those with him, and I truly believe that he wants to make it right, as well. His slate’s clean with me. I don’t have a lot of history with Josh that way, but his history is preceding him. He knows that. I think the only way to deal with a player in these situations is to kind of hit the restart button for him and he has to go do it.”