The Josh Gordon saga took an interesting turn this past weekend.
Because when Albert Breer of NFL.com reported that Gordon tested positive for marijuana use three times in college – including once at Utah – it put a little different spin on the local euphoria from his selection.
Because if a guy tests positive three times, including at two different schools, he might have, shall we say, an “issue.”
Or he might be crying for help.
None of this means Gordon does not have physical ability. Or that he lacks potential.
Just that he might have a little more of a problem than first thought.
Gordon can overcome all this of course. As Robert Griffin III said when talking about him, Gordon put himself in the situation he’s in and it’s up to him to get himself out of it.
Which sounds like a guy who knew what happened the details but didn’t want to go into them.
The Browns declined to comment on Monday, and Gordon’s agent, Jeff Nalley, did not return a phone message.
Drug tests are supposed to be confidential, but Breer said four teams told him that Gordon failed two tests at Baylor and one at Utah.
The first at Utah came when he and a friend were found sleeping in a car at a Taco Bell drive-through. The friend was driving. The second came last July, which led to Gordon being suspended indefinitely.
The timing of the third is not known, except it happened after Gordon changed schools.
Gordon addressed it this way with the Plain Dealer: “The whole time I was in Utah, I never ended up testing positive for any administrative test given by the administrative people there.”
Administratively speaking, of course.
Several reports said Gordon passed a test before his workout last week, two days before the Browns took him in the second round of the supplemental draft – and gave up their second-round pick in next year’s draft to get him.
In addressing the pick, GM Tom Heckert said the team did extensive homework on Gordon and felt comfortable his past troubles were behind him.
But Heckert spoke before there was any public word about a failed test at Utah.
Now there is.
Does it matter?
Hard to say. Many players have come into the NFL with baggage and done well. Randy Moss and Warren Sapp come to mind.
Ohio State tackle Mike Adams tested positive at the Combine in February and was taken in the second round by the Steelers. Adams’ path to Pittsburgh was similar to Gordon’s to the Browns. Pittsburgh took Adams off their draft board and put him back only when Adams visted and promised he’d clean up his act. The Browns became enamored with Gordon after he visited and promised he’d be a model citizen.
Pittsburgh bought it, just like the Browns bought Gordon’s promise.
Cornerback Janoris Jenkins admitted failing a few drug tests in college, and he went in the second round as well, to St. Louis.
There’s risk in any pick, and more risk when a guy has a checkered background (as opposed to paisley).
But giving up a future pick for a guy who hasn’t played in almost two years is risky to start.
And giving up a future pick for a guy who has three positive tests is riskier still. Especially when that future pick figures to be very, very high in the second round. The Browns may be a better team this season, but their win total will not reflect it due to their schedule and the inexperience in key spots. So that second-round choice the Browns gave up could be anywhere from 33 (if the pundits are correct) to 42.
It’s the kind of move that has some teams scratching their heads. But Heckert has never been afraid to take on attitude if talent trumps the ‘tude. See DeSean Jackson.
The most concerning thing about the third test is this: It came when Gordon had another chance.
Falling asleep in a Taco Bell line is one thing (I mean … who hasn’t?).
Failing another test is another thing.
But when a guy leaves school and is accepted at a new one and still fails a test, that’s very concerning.
And it could be a sign that there is far more at play than just bad judgment by a young man. This could indicate of a problem, and a need for help.
Gordon’s future will be determined by how he plays on the field. He’s said and done all the right things since he was picked, and he’ll be the focus of a lot of attention come training camp.
But how he performs on the field is clearly affected by how he acts off.
If he follows the same path he seems to have been following, he’s on the fast-track to a suspension and wasting all that potential.
Then the Browns will be ripped even worse for giving up that second-round pick for him.
But if he straightens himself out and succeeds, the pick could be a steal.
The odds at this point bend toward the worrisome side.
Because it’s evident exactly what Griffin meant when he said that Gordon’s future is “up to him.”