CLEVELAND — The last time we saw Josh Gordon on a football field was the 2016 preseason, when heshined in an electric performanceagainst the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay. **
The performance reflected the kind of talent that made Gordon, 26, one of the NFL's top wide receivers before suspensions put a promising career on hold.
That could change in the near future.* *
Gordon, who hasn't played in a regular season game since Dec. 21, 2014, because of multiple violations of the league's substance abuse policy, was reinstated Wednesday by commissioner Roger Goodell on a conditional basis.
That means Gordon — who can immediately re-join the team to attend meetings, engage in conditioning work and individual workouts — could practice as early as Nov. 20 and return to the active roster as early as Nov. 27.* *
"As emphasized at today's meeting, everyone – including Josh's teammates and coaches, the Browns' ownership and organization, the Program professionals and all of us at the league office – want him to have every opportunity to resume his career and to be successful in the NFL," Goodell said in a news release.
"Whether that happens, however, at the end of the day will depend on Josh. His commitment to sobriety and to reaching his goals in football and beyond will determine his success. It ultimately is up to Josh."
Indeed, Gordon, who has been suspended indefinitely since September of 2016 without pay for multiple violations of the NFL-NFLPA Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse, was conditionally reinstated two summers ago before entering an inpatient rehabilitation facility.
Because of that, Gordon's future with the team remains unclear, though the Pro Bowler could stand to give Cleveland's receiving corps a big boost.
Gordon, picked up by the Browns in the 2012 supplemental draft, led the NFL in receiving in 2013 with a team record 1,646 yards in 14 games. It was the 10th-best season by a receiver in league history.* *
"We've been informed of the league's decision to reinstate Josh. The personal well-being of all our players is of the utmost importance to us," Browns executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said.
"We respect and commend Josh for taking the steps necessary to have the opportunity to return to the league. Josh will be in our building in the coming days and we look forward to having him back and sitting with him to discuss his future on our team."* *
The Browns, who started 0-8 for the second-consecutive season, have struggled to establish playmakers on the perimeter. Four of Cleveland's top five pass catchers play something other than receiver. Receivers Ricardo Louis, Kenny Britt, Rashard Higgins, Kasen Williams and Bryce Treggs have combined for 64 catches for 747 yards and a touchdown.
Louis, a second-year player out of Auburn, leads that group with 23 catches for 292 yards. Britt, who was expected to be a major contributor after joining the team in free agency, has totaled 10 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown in five games
Meanwhile, Corey Coleman, the Browns' first-round pick in 2016, was placed on injured reserve after Week 2 with a broken hand.
Gordon, of course, would offer head coach Hue Jackson and quarterback DeShone Kizer a major weapon on offense. And to be certain, he still has a ways to go to make that happen.
Back in July 2016, Gordon stressed actions speak louder than words when it comes to a possible return. "It definitely can't be done here at a podium, that's for sure," Gordon said then. "Nothing really gets done here but out there on the field I can do everything I came here to do and by my actions. But nothing through what I say can do much."