Cleveland Browns releasing Josh Gordon, who showed up late and ‘not himself’ on Saturday

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon catches a touchdown pass defended by Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton in the second half, September 9, 2018, at FirstEnergy Stadium. John Kuntz,...
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon catches a touchdown pass defended by Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton in the second half, September 9, 2018, at FirstEnergy Stadium. John Kuntz, cleveland.com
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon catches a touchdown pass defended by Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton in the second half, September 9, 2018, at FirstEnergy Stadium. John Kuntz, cleveland.com (John Kuntz, cleveland.com)

 The Browns are finally parting ways with troubled receiver Josh Gordon after he showed up late to the facility on Saturday morning and was “not himself,” league sources told cleveland.com.

They’re releasing him on Monday and finally closing the book on the long saga of substance abuse, suspensions, multiple chances and redemption.

When Gordon did show up at the Browns facility on Saturday “a little tardy,” according to one of the sources, he complained of a pulled hamstring, but he was fine in practice on Friday, a league source told cleveland.com.

Team doctors examined him, and in addition to the tweaked hamstring, there was concern that perhaps he was struggling again with his sobriety or on the verge of relapsing, sources said.

DETROIT, MI – AUGUST 30, 2018: Wide receiver Josh Gordon #12 of the Cleveland Browns on the field prior to a preseason game against the Detroit Lions on August 30, 2018 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. Cleveland won 35-16. (Photo by: 2018 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

He was told to stay home from the team’s trip to New Orleans for Sunday’s game against the Saints, and was upset about it, one of the sources told cleveland.com. The source surmised Gordon was mad because he felt he had let down the team with the hamstring.

“This afternoon we informed Josh Gordon and his representatives that we are going to release him on Monday,” Browns GM John Dorsey said in a statement. “For the past six years, the Browns have fully supported and invested in Josh, both personally and professionally and wanted the best for him, but unfortunately we’ve reached a point where we feel it’s best to part ways and move forward. We wish Josh well.”

Gordon rejoined the team on Aug. 18 after spending an extended period of time in treatment at the University of Florida. It was at least his fifth known time in treatment. The Browns welcomed him back with open arms, but reached the end of their rope with what happened on Saturday.

Teams have already begun calling Gordon about possible trades, ESPN’s Adam Schefter and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported. Rapoport reported that at least five teams have expressed interest. A source also told Schefter that Gordon hurt the hamstring during a promotional shoot, presumably on Friday night.

Gordon posted an Instagram story of himself working out during the shoot at the Browns’ facility.

Jordan Zirm

@clevezirm

Josh Gordon posted this video to his IG story last night. Looks like he was getting some extra work in at the facility. wonder if this is when he tweaked the hamstring

A source told cleveland.com that the mysterious hamstring pull was an issue, but that trust was the bigger factor with one Gordon, and that the Browns felt they couldn’t rely on him from a sobriety standpoint.

Gordon, 27, has been suspended for 56 of a possible 97 games in his Browns career and has only played in 11 games since the end of 2014.

Last week, in the 21-21 tie with the Steelers, Gordon played 69 snaps but was only targeted three times. He caught one pass — the 17-yard TD from Tyrod Taylor that he plucked off Cameron Sutton’s helmet to tie the game at 21 in regulation.

The Browns are likely to reach out again to former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, who visited them last month. In an interview with cleveland.com last week, Browns GM John Dorsey noted that the situation with Bryant was “week to week” and “who’s to say I won’t call Dez” next Tuesday.

Now that week one of the season has passed, the Browns would only have to pay Bryant 25 percent of his base salary if they later released him and not the full amount.

Fourth-round pick Antonio Callaway could get the start in place of Gordon, but Rashard Higgins will also likely get a lot more reps because of his consistency and grasp of the offense.

One of the sources said that Gordon, after showing up late, participated in the morning walk-through and meetings before the team left for New Orleans in the afternoon.

On Friday, Gordon had his hamstrings stretched out thoroughly by a trainer before participating in practice. In the first 30 minutes of practice open to the media. Gordon looked fine and even caught several passes inside the right side of the end zone before falling to the ground.

But he wasn’t listed on the injury report on Friday, and hadn’t been on it all week.

He did suffer a hamstring injury shortly after returning from rehab, but was full-go in the days leading up to the opener against the Steelers, and played 78% of the snaps.

Again, Gordon showing up late and with a pulled hamstring was just a symptom of the larger issue of reliability and trust.

If no one trades for Gordon, he’ll be waived on Monday. He’s playing for $790,000 this season, the minimum amount for a veteran with only two accrued seasons.

In 38 starts since 2012, Gordon 180 catches for 3,106 yards and 16 TDs. In 2013, his second year in the league after being drafted with a second-round pick in the supplement draft, he led the league with 1,646 yards and made the Pro Bowl.

When he returned from treatment on Aug. 18, he tweeted:

Dear Cleveland Browns and NFL family,
“Thank you for your love, support, and most importantly your patience as I took the time needed to ensure my overall mental and physical health.

“More specifically, I would like to thank the NFL, NFLPA, the entire Cleveland Browns organization, the University of Florida, and my friend and business manager Michael Johnson Jr. for playing such pivotal roles during this process. This has by no means been an easy road and I’m extremely grateful to have all of you in my life.

“As I humbly return to being a member of this team with an opportunity to get back to playing this game I love, I realize in order for me to reach my full potential my primary focus must remain on my sobriety and mental well-being.

“Let’s get to work!

Much love,

JG”

Gordon has struggled since middle school with substance abuse, and told GQ Magazine last season that he played every college and pro game either drunk or high before returning for the final five games of last season.

He had been suspended for 54 of his previous 59 games before returning last season, and 44 straight.

Gordon has admitted to using codeine, marijuana, Xanas and other drugs.

“Initially it started for me, [because of] a lot of childhood and adolescent trauma-based fear,” he told GQ. “I was using in my childhood. That environment brought me into that a lot sooner than a normal. …I didn’t want to feel anxiety, I didn’t want to feel fear.

“I didn’t plan on living to 18. Day-to-day life, what’s gonna happen next? So you self-medicate with Xanax, with marijuana, codeine–to help numb those nerves so you can just function every day. That became the norm from middle school to high school. So by the time I got into my 20s, I was on an accelerated pace.”

Gordon recalled his first experience with Xanax in seventh grade.

“Truthfully, that’s where it started from for me,” he said. “The anxiety, the fitting in and stuff. Not being comfortable with who I was. Socially, I felt awkward, talking with people, telling them where I was living. Other kids have nicer stuff than you, “you’re poor” type of shit. A lot of inadequacy, I think, is the reason why I initially got into it.”

In addition to his addiction struggles, Gordon is involved in a bitter child support battle with Christina Lockhart, the mother of his three-year-old daughter.

Gordon posted the following Instagram stories on Saturday night.

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