INDIANAPOLIS — Coach Hue Jackson hasn’t stopped worrying about Josh Gordon off the field.
But he’s been impressed with Gordon since his return from the latest indefinite suspension and is comfortable talking about him as part of the Browns’ future.
“Josh has been great. Josh has been outstanding,” Jackson said Wednesday at the scouting combine. “He’s having a really good offseason. Obviously, he’s got to continue to do so and continue to do the right things, but I truly believe that Josh Gordon is going to have a great year for us.”
Jackson said the Browns will tender Gordon as an exclusive rights free agent. Because of his multiple suspensions, Gordon has accrued only two seasons toward free agency (2012-13) and has no choice but to sign with the Browns. He’s scheduled to be a restricted free agent after the 2018 season.
Jackson said the organization hasn’t discussed a contract extension for Gordon but is open to the idea down the road, despite Gordon’s history of drug abuse and suspensions.
“We want Josh Gordon to be a Cleveland Brown for a long time,” Jackson said. “We’ll see where that all goes, but again, he has to do his part in that and we hope he will and I’m sure he will.”
Gordon, who turns 27 in April, played five games in 2017 after being reinstated, catching 18 passes for 335 yards, an 18.6 average and a touchdown.
LET US KNOW, JOE
The Browns are still waiting on word from left tackle Joe Thomas whether he’ll return for 2018 or retire. It’s expected to come before free agency, which starts March 12 with a two-day negotiating period.
“I’ve talked to Joe Thomas several times and I think Joe is going to make a decision hopefully fairly soon here, but it’s on his time,” Jackson said. “Joe has been a tremendous Cleveland Brown, has done anything and everything we’ve asked of him, so I think it’s only right that we give him the opportunity to work through this and make the best decision for him.”
Jackson added Thomas has been putting on weight after dropping at least 10 pounds following surgery to repair the torn triceps tendon that ended his season and consecutive snaps streak at 10,363.
“He knows how to get himself ready to play if he decides to play and for us as an organization, we’re going to do everything we can to be prepared whether he plays or he doesn’t play,” Jackson said.
Jackson hasn’t forgotten about his promise to jump in Lake Erie after going 0-16.
“Oh, I’m going in. When? Everybody wants to know when. I’m going to plan that here pretty soon,” he said, adding he will use the event to raise money to fight human trafficking. “It will be tied to our foundation, the Hue Jackson Foundation, and hopefully I can get the whole organization to go jump in with me. It’s going to be a cleansing of the Cleveland Browns.”
** Like many fans, Jackson is tired of trading down in the first round of the draft.
“Yes, I am. Let’s draft players,” he said. “Again, if it’s the right fit for us and it helps our football team, we’ll do whatever we feel is best, and I think that’s important, too.”
CROW FLYING AWAY?
Running back Isaiah Crowell is scheduled to become a free agent March 14. Jackson spoke as if he won’t return.
“It’s not so much about us. They get the opportunity to make a decision that they think is best for them,” Jackson said. “He was a fine football player for us. Glad he played for us and we’ll see where this goes.”
Crowell, 25, was undrafted in 2014 and has played every game in four seasons, rushing for 3,118 yards, a 4.2 average and 21 touchdowns. He was frustrated by a lack of carries the last two years.
THE STONE AGE
Jon Gruden spent a decade in the broadcast booth and away from the sideline. Now that he’s back as Raiders coach, he wants to flash back to 1998, when he became a head coach for the first time.
“Are you talking about the analytics, the GPS, all the modern technology?” he said when asked about the league’s new data-tracking policy. “I am trying to throw the game back to 1998. As a broadcaster, I went around and observed every team. I asked a lot of questions, took a look at the facilities, how they are doing business. There was a stack of analytical data or data — however you want to say that word — that people don’t even know how to read it. It’s one thing to have the data or data, it’s another thing to know how to read the damn thing.
“So I’m not going to rely on the GPS’s and all the modern technology. I will certainly have some people that are professional who can help me in that regard. But I still think doing things the old-fashion way is a good way. And we’re going to try and lean the needle that way a little bit.”
New Giants coach Pat Shurmur said he learned from his two years with the Browns. He went 9-23 in Cleveland in 2011-12.
“You’re just more comfortable in what needs to get done because you can see it a little better,” he said. “Anytime you do something for the second time — and really the first time I did it — those that say there’s things that they didn’t see coming are full of it in my opinion. Because there are some things you don’t see coming but you get used to handling it. There’s years since that time where I’ve become a better coach.”
Minkah Fitzpatrick, in the mix for the Browns with the No. 4 pick, played safety and cornerback at Alabama, and Jackson believes he can have success in either role in the NFL.
** Jackson said the draft class is deep in quarterbacks, cornerbacks, safeties, pass rushers and offensive linemen.
** He wouldn’t rule out taking North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb in the top five just because Myles Garrett was the No. 1 pick in 2017 and Emmanuel Ogbah No. 32 in 2016, also defensive ends.
“I don’t think you can cross off great players,” Jackson said. “If we feel like (Chubb) is that, then he’ll be in the discussion.”