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Browns: Joe Haden sees joy, passion in good friend and teammate Josh Gordon

BEREA — Josh Gordon said Thursday he’s a different man after serving a 17-month suspension. Cornerback Joe Haden said Friday the transformation is obvious.
“J.G., honestly, I can say he’s super excited,” Haden said before the first practice of training camp. “You see the joy in him. When he first came back in the locker room, as soon as I saw him, I ran up to him, gave him a hug and was like, ‘J.G., I’m so happy for you to be back.’ He was like, ‘Bro, you don’t understand. I’m so happy to be back.’
“Just passion, and I could tell that he’s just really, really glad that he has the opportunity to be back because being away for that long of a time, he just feels like this is an opportunity that he doesn’t want to give up.”
Gordon will be out at least a couple of weeks with an injured quadriceps — he worked on the side with trainers, then studied the script of plays during team drills — but he was a popular topic of conversation nonetheless.
“He’s a fantastic player and we’re all excited about it and we’re going to be around him and look forward to getting him back out there,” Pro Bowl tight end Gary Barnidge said. “I think he’s already (earned our trust). He’s shown it out here so far in the days he’s been here.”
Quarterback Robert Griffin III has known Gordon the longest, and Gordon said it’s not an accident they have neighboring lockers.
“He’s the reason why I committed to Baylor in 2009,” Gordon said Thursday. “That’s one of my best friends. He looks out for me. I know he’s a big brother.”
“Josh is a great player and everyone knows that and he’s made the mental decision to come back and give it his all,” Griffin said. “I’m glad that he considers me and can look at me as a big brother, someone he can lean on. So that being said, we’re looking forward to helping this team win.”
Gordon is eligible to practice during camp and play in the preseason but must serve a four-game suspension to start the season – his fourth from the league in the last four seasons. Despite being let down repeatedly, many of his teammates have a soft spot for Gordon.
“If you talk to him, you’re going to love him,” Griffin said. “You are going to think he’s a great guy. He just made a couple mistakes and it’s his job and our job to no longer make those mistakes.”
Haden and Gordon have been teammates since 2012, are good friends and trained at the same facility in Los Angeles over the summer. Haden shares the excitement over Gordon’s return after he was reinstated by Commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday.
“We’ve talked several times, and I’m just telling him, ‘Let’s get back to normal, J.G. Let’s both of us go back to the Pro Bowl,’” Haden said.
He and Griffin were among those who stuck up for Gordon when the front office was deciding whether to give him another chance.
“If anybody ever asks me about J.G., it was always positive, always that he’s a person that we can bring back,” Haden said. “He’s a really good dude. I know his heart, and I know he’s a talented player that you just can’t give that up.”
The talent and potential naturally create a buzz in the locker room. Even for those who’ve never played with Gordon.
“From afar you see what he does on tape, and you see how fast he is,” quarterback Josh McCown said. “You think that’s a smaller guy doing those things because he’s so fast. Then I got a chance to meet him last offseason somewhere, and I remember saying, wait a minute, this guy is way too big to be doing this on tape. When you see that, and put those two things together, you realize he’s a special player, a special talent. He’s been given some amazing gifts.
“All of us just want to be alongside him and help him realize those gifts, and be with him to get the most out of him for himself and to help our team. So we’re glad he’s here.”
Gordon (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) showed how powerful those gifts can be with a league-high and franchise-record 1,646 receiving yards in 14 games in 2012. Unsure if Gordon would ever return, the Browns spent the No. 15 pick in April on fellow receiver and Baylor alum Corey Coleman.
They know each other well.
“It’s exciting really. It gives us another weapon on offense,” Coleman said. “I feel like I can help him and he can help me. He’s played in the NFL, so he can teach me a lot of things that I don’t know. I’ve been in (coach) Hue Jackson’s system longer than he has, so if he needs any help, I can help him with that.”
Griffin likes the idea of a triangle of Baylor Bears, with him in the pocket.
“It’s big. Anytime you can step on the field and have two guys that run a 4.3 it’s to your advantage,” Griffin said. “Josh has proven he can make plays, being an All-Pro. Corey is a first-round pick.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or Like him on Facebook and follow him @scottpetrak on Twitter.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.


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