BEREA — Coach Hue Jackson acknowledged “antennas are up” following a Sports Illustrated article depicting receiver Josh Gordon’s criminal history in high school in Houston and college at Baylor.
“That is a tough article, but I think that is behind him and we are going to move on,” Jackson said Wednesday. “Hopefully that is all we hear from that. I’m sure there will be lessons learned from all of that. I think there is a cleansing that people go through in these situations, but I don’t think there is anything great about (the article).”
Gordon told Sports Illustrated in a story posted Tuesday he never “maliciously” shot anyone but often had to fire a gun to get out of dangerous situations. He sold drugs at his high school, made money by using counterfeit bills, was arrested for felony credit card theft when he was 17 and spent 35 days in jail.
As a sophomore at Baylor he said he would receive up to 6 pounds of marijuana in the mail every week and sell it across Texas.
Gordon, 26, is scheduled to play a regular-season game for the first time in nearly three years Sunday in Los Angeles against the Chargers. He’s been serving an indefinite drug suspension.
“The biggest thing is he still has to earn the right to be here,” Jackson said. “He earned the right to get back here. He has to earn the right to be here each and every day.
“He has been outstanding thus far here. Again, I think all of the things I think were talked about were past behaviors. Obviously, I think he understands that the antennas are up everywhere, and they should be. He has to do the work to make sure that those things are in his past.”
Another troubling aspect of the story was that Gordon admitted lying to the reporter during an interview in October. He lied to the Browns in the past as he tried to return while battling addiction, and Jackson was asked if the recent lying made him nervous.
“Everything makes me nervous,” he said. “We have stuff happening across the country, we have stuff happening here, there is all kinds of stuff going on.”
After Gordon was conditionally reinstated Nov. 1, GQ Magazine ran a Q-and-A in which he said he had never played an NFL game sober. Jackson wouldn’t answer specifically if the GQ and SI stories made the Browns reconsider keeping Gordon.
“I will keep those discussions between us in-house, but trust me, we do try to vet out all of those things,” he said. “I don’t want you guys to think that we sweep anything under the carpet and just keep on going. I don’t proceed that way, and I don’t think our organization proceeds that way.”
Receiver Corey Coleman has been friends with Gordon for years but said he didn’t know about the life of crime.
“I was blind to that,” he said. “But you never know what someone’s going through. My mom always said ‘never judge a book by its cover.’”
Coleman believes Gordon’s changed.
“He’s moved past that,” Coleman said. “I can tell. His focus is not even on that. It’s on being a better man, being a good dad to his little daughter.”
NO PRACTICE MAKES FOR DISASTER
Rookie kicker Zane Gonzalez hadn’t punted since high school. He hadn’t even caught a long snap. But there he was lined up deep after punter Britton Colquitt left the game Sunday in Cincinnati to be evaluated for a concussion.
“Well, I went into it confident. Thought I was going to be able to do better,” Gonzalez said. “Didn’t catch it cleanly, tried to get it off as fast as I could and just shot off the side of my foot.
“It was definitely one for the books.”
The punt went out of bounds after 16 yards.
Gonzalez said he hadn’t practiced punting in case of emergency but will now. He has been the butt of jokes since the shank and said he called friends to “get in front of it.”
“I can make fun of myself, laugh at myself a little bit,” he said.
Cardale Jones, who came off the bench to win a national championship at Ohio State, is the No. 3 quarterback on the Chargers’ depth chart. He was a fourth-round pick of Buffalo in 2016 and traded to the Chargers in July.
“He definitely has the measurable, the football IQ and the skill set to be a winning quarterback in the National Football League, no doubt about it,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, who was offensive coordinator then interim coach with the Bills last year, said on a conference call. “That is why we brought him here. He is getting better. He is our starting scout team quarterback.
“He loves to throw. There is not a throw that he can’t make. For a big guy with a big, strong arm, he has outstanding touch. He just needs to get somewhere where he is wanted and comfortable with the system because he can play. He showed some outstanding flashes in preseason.”
Jones (6-foot-5, 250 pounds) hasn’t played this year. He played in one game off the bench last season, going 6-for-11 for 96 yards with an interception.
A NEW NO. 2?
Kevin Hogan opened the season as the No. 2 quarterback and could return to the role after Cody Kessler’s recent struggles filling in for DeShone Kizer.
“It could (change). It could,” Jackson said. “Today is Wednesday, so we will go through the rest of the week.”
Hogan was the backup the first five games, then made his first NFL start Week 6 against Houston. He threw three interceptions, had a 38.1 rating and suffered bruised ribs that led to Kessler moving into the backup role. Hogan has been inactive the last five games but is healthy.
Kessler has been awful when forced into action. In three-plus series against the Lions and Bengals, Kessler was 1-for-4 for 5 yards with four sacks.
The Browns will fly to Los Angeles on Friday to get acclimated to the weather and time change. They usually travel Saturdays.
“We are going to try to get there and understand the weather a little better, understand the time difference a little better and see if we can go play a great game,” said Jackson, who’s from Los Angeles.
He said the team will practice Saturday at USC.
** Rookie free safety Jabrill Peppers said he hadn’t yet heard from the league regarding a possible fine following a controversial unnecessary roughness penalty against the Bengals.
“In his league, it is so unpredictable. You never know,” he said.
** Receiver Sammie Coates (knee/ankle) didn’t practice. Defensive back Derron Smith (knee) returned after being inactive Sunday and was limited.
** For the Chargers, cornerback Casey Hayward (calf/personal), defensive tackle Corey Liuget (toe) and rookie receiver Mike Williams (knee) didn’t practice.