BEREA, Ohio -- As the Browns went through the sixth full-squad practice of training camp, their most powerful playmaker's future was on the line at NFL offices in New York.
All-Pro wide receiver Josh Gordon had his appeal hearing Friday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed during media availability at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. No decision is expected to be made Friday.
"Well, there's a process that he's going through right now," Goodell said, according to a transcript provided by the league. "An appeal is actually being heard 1/8Friday3/8. They'll make a decision based on the information that is exchanged 1/8Friday3/8."
Gordon is facing a potential ban from the league of at least a year because he failed a marijuana test this offseason and is a repeat offender of the league's substance-abuse policy, ESPN reported. His attorneys, including Maurice Suh, reportedly planned to argue the Pro Bowler barely tested above the NFL's threshold for marijuana because he was a victim of second-hand smoke.
Gordon, 23, has missed the two most recent practices because he had to travel to the appeal and attend the hearing. He could rejoin the Browns on Saturday for their Family Day scrimmage at the University of Akron if he returned from New York in time, but Browns coach Mike Pettine said he didn't know if that would happen when asked during his post-practice news conference.
"I'm not sure of his exact itinerary there -- who all he's meeting with, when he's coming back, the travel plans, all that stuff -- at this point," Pettine said.
Goodell reportedly appointed Harold Henderson to hear the appeal.
"Josh is going through the process right now," Goodell said. "I am not a part of that process. At some point in time, I may have an opportunity to be involved. When I am, I look forward to meeting with him."
The following excerpt from the substance-abuse policy explains how a ruling will be made: "Within a reasonable period of time, following the hearing, the Commissioner will issue a written decision which will constitute a full, final, and complete disposition of the appeal and which will be binding on all parties."
The league has received rampant criticism in the aftermath of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice receiving a two-game suspension for a domestic violence incident because it routinely issues more severe punishment for drug violations.
"You have to deal with the facts," Goodell said. "We have a drug program that is collectively bargained 1/8with the NFL Players Association3/8, and it has a step process. It takes four incidents before you actually reach a 1/8one-year3/8 suspension in a drug-related case. You have to respond to facts here.
"You have a lot of people voicing their opinions. But what you have to understand is that 1/8Rice3/8 is a young man who made a terrible mistake -- it's inconsistent with what we're all about -- we have dealt with it in a serious manner and we're very confident that this young man understands where he is and what he needs to do going forward."
In an interview with Sports Illustrated Now, former NFL executive Andrew Brandt, an ESPN business analyst and MMQB.com correspondent, said he believes a negotiated settlement will be reached, resulting in a suspension somewhere between eight and 16 games. He said his "wild guess" would be 12 games.
But if Gordon receives the indefinite ban, he wouldn't be eligible to apply for reinstatement with Goodell until a year from the date of the ruling. In other words, he wouldn't be permitted to rejoin the Browns until next August, which wouldn't give him much time to prepare with the team for the 2015 season.
"Those were the circumstances," Pettine said of the timing. "I'm not going to look back on it now with regret. It is what it is."
Gordon also wouldn't be allowed to attend meetings or work out at the team's facility until reinstated.
"He's going to have to really lock down," receiver Nate Burleson said. "Because if you're not around the team, you've got to be able to simulate that for a whole calendar year."
The Browns can only hope for the best at this point.
"Guys like that you want to see good things happen to," Burleson said. "The way I look at it, sometimes you've got to fumble in order to learn ball security, so I'm pretty sure he'll hold onto the rock a little bit tighter after this situation plays out."
ESPN's Outside the Lines first reported the potential suspension May 9, so the wait for an outcome has been exhausting.
"I think that Josh may be relieved," receiver Anthony Armstrong said. "I don't think anybody else in the receiver room is going to be relieved. It's obviously going to be good to know.
"It's going to be very difficult to replace 1,600 yards and the Pro Bowl season he put together. But we all know even if Josh is activated, we're still one slip away from being in the game."
Pettine has said the Browns would need to use a committee approach with their receiving corps if Gordon is unavailable. That's a cause for concern, but the players aren't cowering.
"If you look at it on paper, it may not seem 1/8like3/8 the best receiving corps, obviously," Armstrong said. "But you have an ex-Pro Bowler 1/8Miles Austin3/8, guys who have been in the game for a long time, guys who have had success in the NFL. So those guys are trying to knock the rust off and play at that high level. Then you have young, hungry guys that are trying to come in and play well also. It's not so much unsettling."
Added slot receiver Andrew Hawkins: "We have a bunch of hard working guys with chips on their shoulders who are going to come out here and bust their butts every day, and I'll take that 10 times out of 10."
Weathering the storm without Gordon wouldn't be easy, but at least the Browns have the right attitude.
"We're going to go out to prove that we're one of the best receiver corps in the nation," Burleson said. "That's just a simple fact of it. We're not trying to go out and be haphazardly OK. We want to make a statement and we're quietly doing that."
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