BEREA — Josh Gordon tries not to get ahead of himself. His narrow focus is on the small, one-day-at-a-time victories as he works to stay clean, sober and eligible to continue playing for the Browns.
He appears to be on one heckuva winning streak.
A year ago, Gordon was headed back into a drug rehabilitation facility for at least the fourth time. His bid to have an indefinite NFL suspension lifted had been denied. The Browns had talked like they were done with him.
This week he’s participating in the three-day mandatory minicamp that will conclude the offseason program he’s attended from Day 1. He seems on track to playing a full season for the first time since his rookie year in 2012.
“I feel pretty good right now. Life is great right now,” he said Tuesday.
Coach Hue Jackson said Gordon has done what the organization has asked since returning last season.
“He is working at it. I am proud of him,” Jackson said. “We all are in the organization, because that is something that is tough. He has handled it. He has done his responsibility.”
Gordon, 27, returned for the final five games last year after finishing rehab and being reinstated by Commissioner Roger Goodell. The comeback included interviews about his dangerous, crime-filled teenage years, a long history of drug abuse and never having played an NFL game sober.
He remains on the path to the life and career he desires.
“When I do find myself reminiscing of what’s transpired in my life, really just blessed, man, and thankful,” he said. “Right now for me it’s a bunch of the small victories day to day, just being able to come to work. Like the little, little things. Having some structure in my life.
“You could be anywhere in the world doing something that you don’t love to do, and I’m fortunate enough to be out here trying to give 100 percent at something I couldn’t imagine myself having that much fun doing anything else.”
Gordon praised the support structure of the organization under new general manager John Dorsey, and pointed to his young daughter as a reason to stay consistent in the correct approach.
“The small victories, to me, is just like getting up and not having to worry about whether or not you have some type of security or a place to stay, or like just spending time with my daughter,” he said. “I didn’t get to spend any time with my family like that in the past. Being there with friends, working towards the future.”
Gordon admitted last year to alcohol abuse, smoking marijuana most of his life, as well as using Xanax, cocaine and other drugs on several occasions. He was asked Tuesday how his recovery is proceeding.
“It’s just one day at a time. You got today and that’s all we’re really given,” he said. “The next day, if I’m blessed with the opportunity to wake up, try and tackle it with the same mentality and mindset and the same perseverance, same set of goals.”
He said the pressure of staying sober has eased over the last eight months.
“Day after day you feel a lot less anxious,” he said.
Gordon had been suspended for 54 of the previous 59 games before returning at the end of last season. He had only attended minicamp in 2013 and ’14 and didn’t recall ever going through a full offseason program.
“This is my first time doing all of this, so it’s exciting just to participate in football at this time of the year,” he said. “I never got to do it, so it’s awesome.”
He’s trying to learn another offensive system under new coordinator Todd Haley, build chemistry and rhythm with quarterback Tyrod Taylor and find continuity with the rest of his teammates.
“That’s something that can’t be fabricated and can’t be rushed,” Gordon said. “I try to spend as much time with the guys as possible. I think I’ve been able to just try to make the most of this period.”
Receiver Jarvis Landry, a three-time Pro Bowler, joined the Browns in a trade in March and should form a dynamic duo with Gordon.
“Having the chance to get to know him, and hang out and talk to him, it is crazy how the perception of an article or what people say about a person can be misconstrued,” Landry said. “Having the opportunity to sit with him and learn from him, he is a standup guy. To have him for a full season, that is really good, too.”
The rust from so much time away showed up last season. Glimpses of Gordon’s Pro Bowl talent were obvious, but he caught only 18 passes for 335 yards and a touchdown, well off his remarkable numbers of 2013, when he caught 87 passes for a franchise-record 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns in 14 games.
Gordon appears stronger than ever, with bulging biceps and rippling abdominals. He said he’ll stay in Cleveland during the break before training camp and continue to train at team headquarters. He sees a vast improvement over the condition he was in last year but isn’t satisfied.
“After minicamp I plan on coming back in the best shape I’ve ever been in, looking to make a really big splash,” he said.
He won’t be happy just returning to his All-Pro form of five years ago.
“I plan on exceeding those expectations, exceeding those goals and everything that I’ve done in the past and just kind of build on it,” he said. “Whatever it takes for me to get some wins and do my part where I leave no doubt, no question in anybody’s mind that Josh did everything he could do to try and get us a win or get us a win, then I can walk away with whatever the stat line is. More than anything, I’d rather be a winner.”