On Monday, Charles Barkley made headlines when he said, "Josh Gordon is gonna die if he keeps going on this road," referring to the Cleveland Browns wide receiver's drug and alcohol use in the wake of his latest suspension. Barkley lost a brother to substance abuse issues and stated, "I love my brother, I miss my brother, but when you get invovled with alcohol and drugs and you can't control it -- you look at Philip Seymour Hoffman -- it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when."
Thursday, Gordon responded to Barkley, as well as ESPN's Stephen A. Smith and Cris Carter, among others, in an open letter at The Cauldron.
Gordon began the letter by showing appreciation for everyone's concern for his well-being before letting on that he has no relationship whatsoever with any of the people showing concern for him on television. He continued, "Respectfully, your worry over my 'problems' with substance abuse and my twisting descent into darkness and, apparently, my impending death, is misplaced -- mostly because you have very little idea what you are talking about."
Gordon then definitively stated, "I have not smoked marjiuana since before I was drafted by the Browns in 2012 -- and there are years' worth of drug tests to prove it."
Gordon's latest suspension -- reportedly for a year -- was due to his testing positive for alcohol, not marijuana.
Gordon was suspended for the first 10 games of the 2014 season for two violations. He received eight games for testing positive for marijuana -- which Gordon says was due to inhaling second-hand smoke -- and two games (reduced from four) for a DWI. In the DWI case, Gordon says, his blood-alcohol content was 0.01 over the legal limit, which led to the league reducing his ban for that violation from four games to two.
As a strict condition to my reinstatement in Week 12, I had to agree not only to abstain from drinking for the rest of the season, but also to submit to an alcohol screen as part of my in-season drug testing under the league’s substance-abuse protocol. Did I think that was excessive given I had never had any issue whatsoever with alcohol? Yes. Did I think it was hypocritical that a professional league making hundreds of millions of dollars off beer sponsorships was telling me not to drink? Yes. Did I so much as blink at the condition? No.
Gordon says he did not drink alcohol once after he was reinstated, or even since his DWI in July, until this latest instance that triggered his positive test.
On Jan. 2 of this year, just days after our season ended earlier than we all had hoped — and yes, my actions during the prior offseason definitely contributed to our failure to make the playoffs; it killed me seeing our guys fight so hard when I wasn’t out there with them — I boarded a private flight to Las Vegas with several teammates. During the flight, I had two beers and two drinks. It was the first time I had consumed so much as a drop of alcohol since July 4, 2014, the day of the DWI.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am not much of a drinker. Even calling me a social drinker would be an exaggeration, but at that moment, on that flight, I made a choice. The wrong choice, as it turned out.
Upon landing, I received the all-too-familiar notice by phone that I was to report to a testing location within four hours. I failed the test, obviously, and the rest is history … colored by media speculation and faux outrage.
Gordon also wrote that more than anything else, he has failed himself.
I have let down many in Cleveland -- my Browns teammates, our hard-working coaching staff, the team’s ownership, and the loyal fan base that wants nothing more than to win. Playing there is different than in many other cities. We feel the fans’ pain. We know how important this is to them.
Also, I have disappointed the family and close friends who have always stood by me -- no matter how tough things have been at certain points in my life. Believe me, there have been more dark days than I care to remember.
Most importantly, I have failed myself. Again.
I failed myself when started using marijuana regularly as a young teenager. I failed myself when I ruined a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be Robert Griffin III’s running mate during his Heisman Trophy-winning season at Baylor. I failed myself when I didn’t check with the league office to ensure that my doctor-prescribed, codeine-based medicine was allowed under NFL guidelines. I failed myself when I was arrested for driving a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit. I failed myself when I missed a team walkthrough late in the season and was suspended for the final game of the year.
Gordon also made sure to note, however, that he has also succeeded in his life by escaping from a neighborhood filled with poverty and ruin, and by avoiding the life of crime that so many of the people he grew up with fell into. He admitted that he's made mistakes, but spent most of the open letter attempting to clarify that the mistakes he's made are not the same ones that most people believe he has made.