BEREA — Josh Gordon’s pursuit of redemption doesn’t include regret.
He detailed a life of crime in a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, and was asked Thursday if he looks back on that part of his life with regret.
“I do not. I do not,” Gordon said. “Everybody makes mistakes, for sure, and you wish, if I’d done this, if I’d done this, but I can’t sit back and just pore over every past mistake and say if I went this way instead of this way what would’ve happened. So I know better than that.
“But I think to put me in the position that I’m in now, I definitely don’t regret it.”
Gordon is on the verge of playing in a regular-season game for the first time since Dec. 21, 2014, as he’s scheduled to start Sunday at receiver against the Chargers. The return to the field from an indefinite drug suspension has been, at times, overshadowed by jaw-dropping admissions in interviews with GQ Magazine and Sports Illustrated.
He told GQ he never played a game at Baylor or with the Browns sober. He told Sports Illustrated he was a gang member, sold drugs at his high school, stole cars every day, made money by using counterfeit bills, was arrested for felony credit card theft 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 was pressed on saying he “often” shot a gun to get out of tough spots but never “maliciously” shot anyone. He was asked if he hurt anyone and, if so, how does he not regret that.
After trying to avoid the question, he said he “definitely” understands how the “maliciously” part of the quote sounds strange. He was then asked if that part of the story was accurate.
“I haven’t read the whole article. But I definitely got to look into it,” he said.
Gordon’s detailed confession of his criminal past raised “antennas,” according to coach Hue Jackson, who said Gordon must earn the right to stay on the team every day.
Gordon’s focus is on sharing what he considers a redemptive story.
“Perseverance story, really more than anything,” he said. “A guy that was able to bounce back. Overcoming. Defying the odds. The underdog story. That’s all it is.
“I think it’s something that sells hope for people, it’s realistic, it’s relatable, people want to know about it. And if it’s in the right context, in the right way, I have no problem telling my story.”
He explained his decision to give the interviews.
“Just felt like using my platform, let my voice be heard, let people have a window into my life and get a full image of what I’ve gone through, what I’ve lived and my story,” he said. “You guys just question me and want to guess what’s happened in Josh Gordon’s life, so now you know.”
Sports Illustrated reporter Ben Baskin wrote that Gordon admitted to lying to him about not smoking marijuana in his first two years with the Browns. Gordon lied to reporters and the Browns in previous attempts to return from suspension, so the legitimacy of his criminal history is subject to skepticism.
Baskin wrote that Gordon and business manager Michael Johnson are angling to make money off the story through a book or movie.
“That’s how he felt, that’s for him to say, but I can’t speak as to what happens in the future,” Gordon said. “I don’t have anything in place, or anything lined up. I’m not trying to plug anything or sell anything. I was just trying to tell my story.”
Gordon was conditionally reinstated Nov. 1 by Commissioner Roger Goodell. They met the day before in New York and Gordon convinced Goodell he was ready to return to football.
“To say Roger Goodell knows all of the information in my life, it’s a little bit of an overstatement,” Gordon said. “So I couldn’t go as far to say he knows what I did in college and high school or something like that, so, no, that’s a little much.”
Gordon was officially activated by the Browns from the commissioner’s exempt list Thursday night. Jackson said it’s a no-brainer he’ll start against the Chargers.
“Are you kidding me? Right away,” he said. “You have to play your good players, right? I’m kind of surprised you would ask.”
The Browns are 0-11 and desperate for quality receiver play, so Jackson doesn’t plan to limit Gordon’s playing time.
“Let it rip,” he said. “Pitch count? With this guy? I want three years of that pitch count back out there right now.”
Gordon said he’s “excited as ever” to play and “really can’t wait.” His expectations are through the roof.
“I think I can do everything that’s within my power to do,” he said. “Anything that I’ve done before and anything that I haven’t done, hopefully I can achieve it really.
“I think the sky is the limit. I feel that I’m in great shape. So it’s a question mark on it, but I know that I expect to do something positive. I know that much.”
Gordon said he’s having the most fun of his career and is “most definitely” the best prepared for success on the field, including during his All-Pro season of 2013, when he led the league with a franchise-record 1,646 receiving yards.
“I don’t know that this young man feels pressure. I really don’t,” Jackson said. “The way he goes out and competes and practices and what I have seen thus far, he is the same Josh, having a good time, making plays and doing what he needs to do.
“I’m sure there will be some things rolling through his head that he will work through, but we will be there to assist him, that is for sure.”