Josh Gordon is reunited with the Browns, and his teammates are welcoming him back with open arms.
Gordon, who returned to the club Saturday following an unexpected leave of absence to focus on his mental and physical well-being, was greeted by a warm reception in Berea with less than three weeks until the season opener.
"We've been looking forward to it," said fellow wide receiver Jarvis Landry, "and now that it's finally here, everybody is excited, of course."
Gordon, who continues to recover from a public struggle with addiction, announced July 23 he wouldn't be in Cleveland for the start of training camp. When that happened, the Browns stood firm behind the talented wide receiver, respecting Gordon's commitment to being the best version of himself both on and off the field.
"He was doing something to make himself better, put himself in a better place, which I think is very important," head coach Hue Jackson said on a conference call. "The health part for him is really important. I do get that and respect that."
So do his teammates, who are happy to see Gordon's mental state in a better place. "I think that it's a big boost for the team having Josh back in a healthy state of mind, healthy mindset," linebacker Joe Schobert said. "We know what the best is for him. He's going to help our offense take the top off of the coverage and be more explosive than they already have been."
Gordon, who returned in December after a multi-year suspension for violations of the league's substance abuse policy, is expected to play a key role on a new-look Browns offense that added Landry, a three-time Pro Bowler in Miami, and starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor. To be clear, Jackson said Gordon — who caught 18 passes for 335 yards and a touchdown in five games last season — will need to earn his way back on to the field; Landry, rookie Antonio Callaway and third-year player Rashard Higgins have earned the team's top three receiver spots on the depth chart in his absence.
The Browns will slowly acclimate Gordon back into the swing of things. Jackson and general manager John Dorsey said they'll slowly assimilate Gordon back into the swing of things and it's unclear when he'll be able to practice with the team. He can participate in meetings and conditioning and "will gradually resume all football activities as deemed appropriate," Dorsey said in a statement.
The return of Gordon also offers some clarity to an uncertain receivers room that recently traded former first-round pick Corey Coleman to Buffalo and has hosted free agent and former Cowboys star Dez Bryant.
"It is lovely, him being back," rookie receiver Damion Ratley said. "It stops the outside atmosphere of, 'When is Josh coming back?' He's back now and he's ready to play. Getting him out there is going to be fun. Get to learn from another guy besides Jarvis now. It's good having him back."
Though Gordon never lost the team's trust, Jackson made clear he'll need to meet the organization's expectations going forward. If he can stay on a positive path, there's optimism the gifted player can return to form as one of the league's preeminent playmakers.
"He is a proven receiver in this league," Landry said. "He's a guy who's going to give us the ability to do a lot of things. I know we're excited about that."