As the Cleveland Browns continue their offseason workouts, they're anxiously awaiting the final word on All-Pro wide receiver Josh Gordon. Their success or failure in the upcoming NFL season is riding on the alleged failed drug test that could cost Gordon all of 2014.
Why Gordon failed a recent drug test remains a mystery, but what stage of the league's protocol regarding repeat offenders is now known.
According to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio and Mary Kay Cabot of he Cleveland Plain Dealer, Gordon was in Stage 3 of the NFL's substance abuse program at the time of his latest alleged positive test.
The highest level of the program, Stage 3 happens only after multiple violations of the policy. Under the terms of the policy, the player remains in Stage 3 for the rest of his career. The league may test him up to 10 times per month; he has the ability to make an annual request to have the frequency of the testing reduced.
Gordon’s current predicament may have resulted from a positive test or some other violation of the policy. Either way, the policy provides that a violation results in a banishment for a minimum of one year.
Regardless of whether Gordon can avoid a suspension or negotiate a shorter ban, he continues to be one strike away from the kind of violation that could knock him out for a full season. By getting himself so close to a one-year suspension less than two years after arriving in Cleveland via the supplemental draft, it’s hard not to think that a one-year suspension is inevitable.
According to the NFL drug policy, players move to Stage 3 if they have two positive tests when in Stage 2 or one positive test to go with one instance when the player failed to comply with the program.
Players who are placed into Stage 3 remain in Stage 3 for the remainder of their careers.
The minimum suspension for a violation in Stage 3 is a calendar year.
Despite being suspended last season for two games for his first violation of the NFL's Substance Abuse Policy, Gordon led the Browns with 87 receptions and had nine touchdowns last season. He led the NFL with 1,646 receiving yards and became the first player in NFL history with consecutive 200-yard receiving games.
If he's able to play even eight games in '14, the Browns will have a shot at getting seven or eight wins. If he misses the whole year though, it's hard to see them breaking six wins.
ESPN reported earlier this month that Gordon was headed for a year-long ban after failing a drug test for marijuana. FOX Sports 1 NFL insider Mike Garafolo reported that Gordon hopes to have the suspension reduced to four to six games upon appeal.