Still serving an indefinite suspension for repeated violations of the league’s substance abuse policy, there’s a very real chance Josh Gordon has played his final NFL snap. “I’ve had to entertain that thought many nights,” said Gordon, bearing all in a revealing interview with ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The 29-year-old’s turbulent career has brought him to places like Cleveland, New England, Seattle and even Fan Controlled Football, a start-up league he plays in with former Browns teammate Johnny Manziel. Gordon is cognizant of his uncertain future in the NFL, the result of countless suspensions stemming from his history of drug and alcohol abuse. But Gordon insists he’s clean now and hopes he’ll find another opportunity in football, preferably as a player, though the former Pro Bowler has also contemplated a career in coaching.
“I feel as though I have something to offer. I feel as though some people could benefit from me playing for them, watching me play, or teaching them how to play,” said Gordon, who continues to train in greater Seattle in hopes of his suspension eventually being lifted. “Whatever it is, I know I have a lot to offer. A lot of knowledge about the game, a lot of experience. I’m not just going to throw that away and disrespect myself.”
Undrafted out of Baylor, the 6’3” receiver impressed early in his Browns tenure, leading the NFL in receiving yards at 22. But soon Gordon’s off-field struggles bled into his day job. That proved to be a recipe for disaster as Gordon’s life and career both began to unravel. “I had a lot of distractions in my life and allowed my attention to be pulled in so many different ways.”
Gordon successfully returned to the league in 2017 following a three-year hiatus, but demons in his personal life continued to take their toll, leading to further suspensions and a trade to New England early in the 2018 season. “I had to work through and work past a lot of guilt, a lot of shame. Inner turmoil with myself, my family was dealing with it as well,” said Gordon, reflecting on his wasted potential. “I was battling life problems, I think, as well as workplace environment problems. Just saying how can I coexist? Everybody else seems to be doing it. I think that’s where the self-doubt comes in. As you’ve seen with my career, it can bring you to some low points.”
Gordon’s rock bottom came in 2019 when his older brother unexpectedly passed away. That sent Gordon spiraling. “You hit every emotional bottom on the road to bouncing back from something like that. Withdrawing from society in a way, trying to figure out which direction to go and who’s going to help you get there,” said Gordon, who turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with his brother’s death. “It’s a journey, trying to figure out exactly what to do, who to rely on, who to call your friends.”
Gordon is on the road to recovery again, but knows he’s not out of the woods just yet. “Temptations happen all the time. Some weeks are easier than others,” said Gordon, acknowledging how easy it would be to fall off the wagon. “I look back to my past and realize just how quickly or impulsively I’ve made certain mistakes.”
Luckily, even in his darkest hours, Gordon has always had friends and family he can lean on. “My mom, my brothers, friends in the community here locally and back home, they call me to check on me. Guys like Johnny [Manziel],” said Gordon, describing the support system that has helped him turn his life around. “People have reached out on social media, showing love. It gives me motivation to keep doing what it is that I do. It’s really kind of just shown me how important all these small details in life are.”