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Josh Gordon calls football his “passion,” says he appreciates it more in return, looking for more big plays vs. Packers

Josh Gordon had heard players talk about treating every game like it could be their last but never experienced the feeling. He would drink alcohol and smoke marijuana before every game, then take the opportunity for granted.

That changed last week when he returned from a drug suspension to play for the first time in nearly three years — and play sober for the first time since high school. The experience opened his eyes.

“I got to come into this game with an advantage, with an edge just from a psychological standpoint, just being so amped up and ready to play more than anything,” he said. “Just the absence of it and being put back out there. They say play as if it’s our last game. I know what that feels like now.

“So I put that mentality toward every practice and every game, every meeting and everything that we have. That’s the attitude that I have.”


Gordon’s “prestigious” athleticism, as rookie tight end David Njoku called it, was obvious last week against the Chargers. So were his incredible talent and impact on the offense.

He’s always played receiver with an ease — the way he runs, leaps and snatches the ball out of the air and away from defenders — that contradicts his lifetime of inner turmoil. He said he felt “free” on the field against the Chargers.

“It’s just a place that’s fun. It’s a place that I enjoy,” he said. “It’s my passion. It’s what I love to do. It’s not too cerebral. A lot of it just feels second nature. It does feel like something that’s just what I’m meant to do.

“It does feel freeing as opposed to doing anything else. I have fun. I have other hobbies, but this is where I feel the most free.”

The Browns (0-12) return home Sunday to face the Green Bay Packers. They have four games left to avoid a winless season.

Gordon hasn’t played a regular-season game in Cleveland since Dec. 14, 2014. He told GQ Magazine before he was reinstated that living in Cleveland “could be a nightmare” and that he had been harassed. He said the feedback since his return has been positive and he was looking forward to playing in front of the home fans.

“More emotional? For sure, I believe,” he said. “I haven’t played here in a long time so I am super excited. I believe that feeling will be reciprocated, whether I am there or not, but hopefully it is just a little bit more amplified. I will have a good time. I hope they have good time, but I’m pretty sure we can put on a good show for them.”

Gordon’s four catches for 85 yards after the nearly three-year layoff raised eyebrows and dropped jaws around the league. Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward said Gordon joined Giants superstar Odell Beckham Jr. as his toughest matchups.

Gordon wasn’t shocked by what he did.

“I was just happy, happy for what I was able to accomplish and overcome to get to that point,” he said. “That meant a lot to me. Not surprised, but just really grateful, blessed, happy about it. Some sense of pride, like you did it, you accomplished something, now keep on building from here.”

Gordon said his body responded fine to his first game action. He got winded against the Chargers but said that will no longer be a problem and he’ll be ready whenever called upon.

The key to Gordon taking the next step, truly dominating and possibly bringing the Browns their first win is better chemistry with — and throws from — rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer. He targeted Gordon 11 times and they only connected on four.

“Yeah, the disparity in the numbers is not the greatest,” Gordon said. “We definitely wish to have that a little bit closer together. We left a few out there, wish you could have them back.”

Three were deep routes where Gordon had at least a step on the defender. He acknowledged “at least one or two” could’ve been touchdowns.

“But I plan on getting them this week,” he said.

Kizer’s accuracy has been a problem all year, but the missed connections can also be attributed to the lack of reps with Gordon, particularly in games. Kizer said he needs to learn where Gordon wants the ball and how he’ll run particular routes against certain coverages. Gordon said they’re making “tremendous strides.”

“We do have a good list of things that we learned from this last week that we will be able to continue to carry onto this week,” Kizer said. “The go ball is a very big piece of the NFL. You have to be able to get chunk plays. You have to be able to take the top off of defenses.

“The more time I spend with Josh, the more I will understand how he is going to release on guys and what line he is going to try to get back to so that I can put it on it and allow him to get up and make a play.”

Gordon said his only expectation for his second game is to give 100 percent but he believes the extra work with Kizer will pay dividends.

“I think we’re going to hit a lot of those plays that we missed,” he said. “Everything seems to be clicking. We’re really trying to pull out a win, but I think we can do it. I really think we’ll execute this week.”

Gordon was switched for the X receiver to the Z, which put him on the same side as the tight end more often. He said he made a few miscues but will be better the second time viewing the field from the opposite side.

“Physically, he is as good as anybody I have been around, but he has to do it every day, every game,” coach Hue Jackson said. “He has been a pleasure to be around to coach, to talk to every single day, and he is doing a good job. Now, we just have to continue to have him get back to where he was. The sky is the limit for him.”

Rookie defensive end Myles Garrett said Gordon fit right back in and looked at peace against the Chargers.

“The whole time he’s been here he’s been impressive with his work ethic, how much he studies and how he came out the first game and he was prepared,” Garrett said. “He didn’t have any uneasiness. He went out there and just did his job.”

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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