Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon has not played in the NFL since 2014. He's been suspended by the NFL several times for violating the league's drug policy and has checked himself in and out of rehabilitation facilities on multiple occasions.
He was recently released from the latest 90-day stint in rehab, during which he received a three-day leave to film a 13-minute documentary for UNINTERRUPTED about his drug use, rehab attempts, and his training with Olympic sprinter Tim Montgomery with the intent of coming back to the NFL.
"I need to live out my amends," Gordon said in the video. "I need to try to make right for all my past transgressions and mistakes and show and prove I can be a better person, I can be a better man. Somebody who is accountable, reliable because I know what's on the other side of that. If given the opportunity, I believe I can prove my worth."
Among those transgressions, of course, is Gordon's extensive history of drug and alcohol abuse,and in the NFL. "I've used alcohol on many, many occasions," Gordon said. "Xanax on many occasions. Cocaine, several occasions. Marijuana, most of my life. Codeine, cough syrup, promethazine, very prevalent from where I'm from. It's what I grew up using. I've been enabled most of my life, honestly. I mean, I've been enabled by coaches, teachers, professors – everybody, pretty much gave much a second chance just because of my ability."
Gordon went to rehab for the first time in 2013, but revealed that he did not take it seriously.
"My first thought was, 'this is a publicity stunt. This is just going to help the media deal with me. It's going to help the fans be able to deal with it. I don't know what they're so worked up for anyway.' I definitely wasn't listening. I definitely wasn't paying attention. 'OK, it's a business move. Alright, cool let's do it.' I was there for like 14-15 days, it was a joke. It was pretty much a vacation. I had a bunch of good gourmet meals and took a little break and then got right back to work. And then led the league in receiving yards."
Following that season, where he was suspended for the first two games of the year and still managed to lead the NFL in receiving yards, Gordon was arrested and charged with driving under the influence in North Carolina. He was suspended for 10 games.
"The 2014 season I was suspended 10 games for the DUI," he said. "I needed six games for it to count as fully accrued towards being a restricted free agent the next year. I was suspended 10, got to play the last five. The sixth game, end of the season, stayed out late but the thing is we had to be up in the morning for like a 7:30 team meeting.
"I didn't wake up until 10 o'clock, 10:15, coming out of a blackout, I'm getting a bunch of texts and calls, from coaches like 'where are you at, we're headed to the tarmac already.' I'm like 'aw sh--,' so drove up to the tarmac, and our general manager at the time, he kind of pulls me to the side and talks to me, he's like 'I'm sorry Josh, but you're not going on this plane.' I was watching the plane go off and it was like well 'f-- it, let's go home, let's party.'"
That partying led to Gordon's being suspended for the entire 2015 season, as he tested positive for alcohol. At that point, Gordon decided to steer directly into what everybody seemingly thought of him.
"I got suspended for the entire year and after that it kind of all came in from all angles, different fans, everybody kind of was like 'oh, you're a piece of s---, you're a drug addict, you're a junkie, whatever, you're alcoholic. So at that point, I was like, 'if you all want me to be this guy so bad, that's just what I'm going to be.'"
Gordon applied for reinstatement to the NFL in 2016, but his request was denied after he failed another drug test. He was reinstated later that year, but after he was a week away from returning to the field, he checked himself into rehab instead. Following that rehab stint, Gordon applied for reinstatement again in early 2017. Again, the request was denied. So he went back to his drug-using.
"I found myself around the city of Gainesville just wandering, looking for a drug dealer," he said. "Looking for people on the street corner, whatever, smelled like weed, somebody that looked like they had something, asking random people, knocking on like smoke shop storefronts seeing where I could find some stuff at. I was just looking for something, some type of relief. I was walking down at 11:30 at nighttime, and that night in particular I couldn't find anybody with drugs and I just began to have a flashback and remembered all the negative things that have happened in my life that transpired, like what led up to this point? How did it get this bad? Like It's so dark out here, I'm all alone, what the hell am I doing? I was scared. I was scared for my life."
He decided then that he had to check into rehab for real.
"And then just something clicked in my head at that point, it's like 'man, you did it again. You're willing to throw away everything you ever worked hard for, everything you ever had out of life,'" he said. "It was so strange, but I just had a desire to stop. I had the desire to get help, invest myself 100 percent into whatever was going to help save my life. It never really set in the severity of if you fail a drug test, this is over. They're not going to let you keep playing. I never really took it serious. I thought I could keep on doing it and get away with it and get away with it."
Gordon has completed that rehab stint and is eligible once again to apply for reinstatement to the league, and Cleveland.com reported that he planned to do so in conjunction with the release of the documentary.