Josh Gordon, recovering on and off the field, expects to play vs. Steelers

Browns star wide receiver Josh Gordon has his sights set on playing in the team's season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Gordon, who recently returned from a leave of absence to focus on his off-field well-being, expects to suit up against Cleveland's divisional rival in less than two weeks following almost a month away from the organization. 

"I know I'm going to be here playing football," Gordon said Monday, "and anything outside of these walls I think I have the right people in place to help me in any way in which I need to help."

Gordon announced July 23 he wouldn't be in attendance for the start of training camp as he continues recovering from a public struggle with addiction. When that happened, the organization — from ownership, to head coach Hue Jackson, to teammates — voiced their support for the gifted but troubled player. Gordon thanked the club for their ongoing help and understanding. 

"I feel grateful of the opportunity to have the chance to come back out here and be with my teammates, and enjoy this beautiful atmosphere," he said. "It's a resounding positive effect that I have been getting. It's great to see that love and feel that love, and get it back."

Gordon returned to the playing field in December following a multi-year suspension for repeated violations of the NFL's substance abuse policy. In five games back, he caught 18 passes for 335 yards and a touchdown, flashing the kind of talent that once made him one of the league's most dominant receivers. With Gordon expected to play a key role in a new-look offense that includes starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor and Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry, there's a belief that the best is still yet to come for the 27-year-old. 

"There's better to come," he said. "Always better to come."

For that to happen, Gordon first needs to recover from a minor hamstring injury he sustained in a strength and conditioning workout upon returning to Berea. Provided he plays in the season opener, it'll be the first time Gordon has done so since 2012. To be clear, Jackson made clear Gordon won't start in the game, echoing previous comments that the receiver must earn his way back onto the field. 

"We'll come up with the right package for him to play. I wouldn't expect him to go play the whole game or anything like that," he said. "But I expect him to contribute to the football team when we do play Pittsburgh and he's ready to go."

In the greater scheme of things, the Browns are optimistic that Gordon is on a positive path off the field as the wide receiver hopes to play a full season for the first time since his rookie campaign. 

"I have a great group of guys here and people here that I can lean on no matter what is going on," he said. "The objective is to win games. The objective is to play football."

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