It was a surprising turn of events when Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon announced an indefinite leave of absence earlier this week.
But as Cleveland opened training camp Thursday, his teammates expressed support and empathy for one of their own.
"I just wanted to know the details of it but more importantly, I'm a friend of Josh Gordon, so I wanted him to be right," quarterback Tyrod Taylor said. "Mentally, physically whatever he has to do to get himself together to come out and play at a high level, then I'm all for it. I'm more so a friend than a teammate."
Taylor, like many members of the Browns roster, were initially taken aback by Monday's news that Gordon — a gifted but embattled pass-catcher who's struggled with a public battle against addiction — would be stepping away to focus on his off-field well-being. But first and foremost, Taylor and Co. fully endorsed whatever Gordon needs to do to be the best version of himself.
"Whatever he has to do to take time to get himself right and to come back to this team and contribute, we are all for it," said Taylor, who was named Cleveland's starting signal-caller this past spring following three seasons in Buffalo.
Taylor is not alone in that sentiment.
"We're gonna let him go through that process and we're going to welcome him back with open arms," said wide receiver Jarvis Landry, a three-time Pro Bowler who joined the team via trade with the Dolphins this past spring.
"Josh's health is the most important. He's doing all the right things to take care of himself," said rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield. "Yeah it caught people off guard, but he's doing what's best for him. Everybody understand that."
Gordon returned to the field late last season following a three-year suspension for multiple violations of the NFL's substance abuse policy. In five games back, he flashed the talent that made him one of the league's most-electric players and is expected to play a major role on Cleveland's new-and-improved offense.
The Browns, who acknowledged Gordon's unusual talent and subsequent impact on the team's offense plans, said they'll have to find ways to replace him while he's away from the field.
"Of course we all know that Josh has tremendous talent, but we also have a bunch of talented guys in that wide receiver room," Taylor said. "If you were here in the spring, you've seen the competition, day in and day out, that those guys brought to the field each and every day. A ton of opportunities for guys to go out and make plays. Of course, you care for your brother, but at the same time, those guys are welcoming the opportunity to go out and show the coaches what they can do."
Citing a desire to remain on a positive path, Gordon believes that "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." He added: "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."
In the meantime, his teammates won't turn their backs.
"We will support him," Taylor said. "We will stand behind him 100 percent."