BEREA, Ohio (AP) — The Browns have personal compassion for Josh Gordon. They’re done with him professionally.
A day after the troubled wide receiver said he’s entering rehab for an unspecified condition, Cleveland coach Hue Jackson said Friday that the team intends to “move on” from Gordon.
“What we need to do is just close that chapter right now,” Jackson said. “He’s doing what he needs to do, and we need to do what we need to do, which is continue to move forward.”
One of the NFL’s most talented young players, Gordon, who has been suspended for 30 of the Browns past 35 games, announced Thursday that he’s stepping away from football to focus on getting his life together. The 25-year-old was scheduled to return from his latest four-game suspension next week and possibly play on Oct. 9 against New England.
However, Gordon has chosen to put his career on hold to work on an unidentified addiction.
Jackson, who said he talked to Gordon “several times” about his decision to enter rehab, grew tired of the questions about the former Pro Bowler. Jackson said his sole focus needs to be on taking care of “the players that are here and the players that are practicing and working.”
“What is best for our football team is that we move forward and move on,” Jackson said. “He is not going to be with us. We wish him well, but we are moving forward.”
Just last week, Jackson defended Gordon and talked at length about how well he was doing during his suspension. Gordon was only permitted to attend team meetings during his latest four-game ban for another violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
When pressed on his level of disappointment in Gordon, Jackson said he was through addressing the topic.
“Again, none of that matters right now,” he said. “I’m not going to answer anymore Josh Gordon comments or questions. I’m done with it. I’m going to coach our team that is here. That is what I want to do.”
The Browns stood by Gordon as long as they could, showing support as he tried to quell his demons. But just as they did with quarterback Johnny Manziel, the team reached a breaking point despite his immense talent and potential.
Still, Gordon’s departure is painful for his teammates, who have been impressed with how hard he’s worked, and wished him the best.
“This is bigger than football,” said wide receiver Andrew Hawkins. “He’s a friend of mine, someone me and a lot of guys in this locker room care about, so this is important for him. I’m happy for him that he took this step. Hopefully, it’s the first step in the right direction and the first of a lot of good things to come for him.”
Gordon’s situation has touched Hawkins deeply.
Hawkins’ sister, Lucia Young, died of a heroin overdose in June and he’s still dealing with his grief. She was 30 years old, a recovering addict trying to help others.
“She had been clean for two to three years, doing an incredible job,” Hawkins said. “Talked to her regularly, but the one relapse cost her her life. It was something I didn’t see coming and it kind of opens your eyes up to what addiction is like. It’s not a black-and-white situation. It’s not cut and dry and it’s important for Josh to take this step and try and figure it out.
“It’s a hard road and he understands that. But football isn’t important right now.”
Hawkins said Gordon had made major strides and had been accountable during his suspension. And as much as he would like to line up alongside Gordon, who led the league in yards receiving in 2013, Hawkins wants his friend to get better.
“The personal side is more important,” said Hawkins. “I love football as much as anybody else and Josh is one of the best talents, up there with the best talent that I’ve ever seen up close and personal, but it’s still secondary. Him being a good receiver isn’t going to save his life 20 years from now. Him coming back to help the Cleveland Browns in 2016 isn’t going to help him in 2025 if he’s still dealing with these same issues. So I’m sincere in what he’s doing is important.
“I pray for the best for him and I’m here for him no matter what.”
Cleveland goes on the road to take on the Washington Redskins Sunday at 1 p.m.