The optimism building in anticipation of the start of Browns training camp this week was stopped in its tracks Monday morning.
The person who delivered the blindside hit was predictable.
Just when the Browns and their fans thought they might be able to count on troubled receiver Josh Gordon, he gave everyone more reason for concern.
In a series of four tweets Gordon announced he was “doing great” physically and mentally but wouldn’t be at the start of training camp this week as part of his “health and treatment plan.”
A league spokesman told The Chronicle-Telegram there’s no new suspension for Gordon, the NFL will address the matter at “the appropriate time” and there’s no timetable.
No suspension means Gordon didn’t fail a drug test. But the decision to skip the start of training camp is highly unusual.
Gordon, who was suspended for all of the 2015 and ’16 seasons for violating the league’s substance abuse policy and hasn’t been eligible for a full season since he was a rookie in 2012, was a participant throughout the Browns’ offseason program. He posted pictures on social media over the weekend of him working out in Gainesville, Fla.
“To my Cleveland Browns and NFL family, I am reaching out to you all personally and letting you know that I am not only doing great physically but mentally as well. You will notice that I will not be in Cleveland for the start of training camp. Rest assured this too is a part of my overall health and treatment plan. I appreciate the awesome support I have received from teammates, friends, fans, and the Brown’s organization. Just like you, I am excited to start the season and I have every intention of being ready and available to join my teammates soon to help bring winning football to our fans.
“With the help of the NFL, NFLPA, and the Browns’ organization, I have been able to utilize the resources available to me that will ensure my well-being on and off the field. By continuing to follow the plan set up by our medical director and his team and taking this time before this season starts, we believe it will help me maintain the progress I’ve made for not only today but for many years to come.
“Thank you all for your patience, love, and support! Go Browns!
“Sincerely, Josh Gordon”
— Flash Gordon (@JOSH_GORDONXII) July 23, 2018
He then sent a follow-up tweet: “Thanks again.. See ya soon..”
Gordon, 27, missed more than two seasons on an indefinite drug suspension before returning for the final five games last season, catching 18 passes for 335 yards and a touchdown.
Coach Hue Jackson said during the offseason Gordon was doing all the right things. The team has remained in touch with Gordon.
“We will continue to support Josh as he receives the care needed to maintain his progress,” general manager John Dorsey said in a statement. “We are going to respect his privacy while he is away from the team. Josh will be placed on the non-football illness reserve list until he is ready to return.”
Browns players are scheduled to report to training camp Wednesday, with the first practice Thursday. For a team desperate to move past a winless season, the announcement from Gordon is a setback and the timing unfortunate.
Gordon stayed in Berea after minicamp ended in June and worked out at the team facility until a couple of weeks ago.
“I was surprised. I knew that Josh has been on the right track, he’s been doing all of the right things (during) the offseason,” retired Browns left tackle Joe Thomas said on NFL Network. “But as anybody that has battled addiction knows, there are times when you need a little reminder you need to get kind of that check back in and get back on the right track. It’s not the greatest of timing right now for the Browns but hopefully he can get his house in order by the time the middle of training camp comes around and he’ll be back out there.
“I think the Browns are doing the right thing. They’re being patient, they’re being understanding and they’re trying to help a young man that wants to get the right help and that has amazing NFL talent.”
Gordon has immense talent but has been unable to stay on the field. That was expected to change this year.
“I feel pretty good right now. Life is great right now,” Gordon said during minicamp in June.
“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’s comeback last year included interviews about his dangerous, crime-filled teenage years, a long history of drug abuse and never having played an NFL game sober.
He said in June he remained 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 had been suspended for 54 of the previous 59 games before returning at the end of last season. He appears stronger than ever, with bulging biceps and rippling abdominals.
He made headlines in minicamp by calling Cleveland’s receiving corps the best in the league. While the claim was premature, at best, it would be completely unfounded without Gordon in the group. He was an All-Pro in 2013 after setting a franchise record with 1,646 receiving yards in 14 games.