Hall of famer Cris Carter believes the Cleveland Browns should give All-Pro wide receiver Josh Gordon a life-changing wake-up call by cutting him, but former NFL coach Herm Edwards disagrees.
Carter and Edwards were summoned to discuss Gordon's situation Monday morning on ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike. Neither believes the Browns will release Gordon, although they took opposite sides on the argument about whether the organization should let him go.
Everyone seems to have an opinion about Gordon, 23, after he was arrested early Saturday morning in Raleigh, N.C., on a charge of driving while impaired. Gordon, a Pro Bowler, is also appealing a potential suspension of at least a year for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy with what ESPN reported in May was a failed marijuana test.
"I feel for the kid, and I feel for all kids in this situation," said Carter, who overcame drug and alcohol addiction to become an eight-time Pro Bowl wide receiver with the Minnesota Vikings after former Philadelphia Eagles coach Buddy Ryan cut him in 1990. "My situation was very, very similar, but there were some differences. If I'm the Cleveland Browns -- and it's gut-wrenching for me to say this -- I really believe the only thing that's going to help the kid is if they release him.
"We're dealing with addiction. We're dealing with a disease. If Josh had cancer, we'd put him in a treatment center, and right now that's what we need to do. But no one wants to do the hard thing. Everyone wants to keep coddling him the same way they did in high school, the same way they did him at Baylor (University), which he had problems (there), and eventually it's going to blow up. Now it's blowing up in front of the National Football League and his career is in jeopardy."
A former NFL defensive back who coached the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs before becoming an ESPN analyst, Edwards agreed rehabilitation is necessary for Gordon.
"I wouldn't cut him," Edwards said. "I'd just put him in a program for a whole year and say, 'He's our guy. We're going to try to save his life.' Not his career, his life because his life comes before his career, and put him in a program for a whole year. When he comes out, see how he can handle it. But I wouldn't cut him right now. I think cutting him -- Cris (Carter) makes a great point -- that might shock him. But you're not trying to shock the guy. You're trying to help the guy."
When Edwards coached the Chiefs, he worked with Browns General Manager Ray Farmer, who was the Chiefs' director of pro personnel. Edwards can't see Farmer dumping Gordon without doing everything possible to get him on the right track.
"I think Cleveland, knowing Ray Farmer personally, they're going to try to help this young man, and he needs some help because right now he's making some bad choices off the field," Edwards said. "You want to help the guy. It's not about the football anymore. That'll take care of itself. We know what type of football player he is, but you want to help the guy as a man.
"This guy is a professional athlete, one of the best receivers in football, probably top five. He's going to get another chance. If Cleveland cuts him, someone's going to send him to a clinic for a year, and Josh Gordon will get another chance."
Gordon's blood-alcohol level was 0.09 when he was arrested, and he admitted to having three drinks mixed with vodka when he was pulled over for traveling 50 mph in a 35 mph, according to a citation obtained by WNCN, an NBC affiliate in Raleigh.
More details emerged Monday about the crowd with which Gordon is associated.
Gordon was driving a 2015 Cadillac Escalade registered to former University of North Carolina basketball player P.J. Hairston when police stopped him, WRAL.com reported. Haydn "Fats" Thomas, a convicted felon from Durham, N.C., bailed Gordon out of jail. The NCAA ruled Hairston ineligible before the 2013 season after Thomas, who's serving a suspended sentence on drug and gun charges, lent him a rental car.
Gordon is a close friend of former Browns wide receiver Greg Little. Now with the Oakland Raiders, Little is an ex-North Carolina player whom the NCAA declared permanently ineligible in 2010 because he received more than $20,000 in benefits from agent Terry Watson, who was indicted last fall.
A Cuyahoga County sheriff's deputy issued Gordon a speeding ticket May 25 for traveling 74 mph in a 60-mph zone in Strongsville. A passenger in his vehicle received a citation for possession of marijuana during the stop.
Edwards stressed that Gordon needs a good support system.
"Obviously, he's wasting his talent because right now he can't control his appetite off the field socially with some of the things he gets involved with," Edwards said. "... He's got this tremendous talent and there's people that are looking at this going, 'How could he do this?' When you are fighting an abuse problem -- and I've never had an abuse problem, but I know people that have, I grew up with people that had abuse problems -- it's tough. You can't fight it alone."
The bottom line, though, is that Gordon's future will ultimately depend on him.
"The league has given him all the help that one could desire, and our employee assistance program is as good or better than any employee assistance program in the country," Carter said. "He's getting all the help. This is addiction, man. It's not about help, man. It's about looking inside of yourself and realizing that (you) have a problem, and for him, he just won't admit that.
"It took me a couple of years before I could sit in a meeting and say, 'I'm an alcoholic. I'm a cocaine addict.' It took a lot to say that. It hurt to admit it because the rest of my life was under control. ... When I got cut, I didn't have a team. I didn't have any teammates. I didn't have a jersey that I could put my name on the back and say, 'I'm a part of this team.' ... When they took that away, man, that was my reality and that was the catalyst to get me on the road to recovery."
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