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Dark clouds over Cleveland Browns are hard to ignore

There are reasons to be optimistic about the Cleveland Browns in 2013.

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The roster has legitimate talent on both sides of the ball. New ownership is engaged, and the coaching staff has been upgraded. With the proper infrastructure in place, second-year pro Brandon Weeden actually might get a fair shot at this thing.

"I think we have a chance to be really good," the Browns quarterback said Thursday via The Plain Dealer.

He's not wrong. Still, we can't ignore the dark clouds lingering in an otherwise sunny sky.

Wide receiver Josh Gordon's two-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy is the latest thunderclap. The ban creates a substantial game plan disadvantage in preparation for conference matchups against the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens. And this comes four days after we learned running back Trent Richardson was being shelved -- possibly well into training camp -- because of a shin injury.

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Then there's the biggest of the black clouds over Berea, Ohio, -- the federal investigation of owner Jimmy Haslam's truck stop empire, Pilot Flying J. We've seen in the past how ownership discord can submarine a promising Browns season. Fans would like to pass on another NFL Network special.

Do Browns players see the Flying J scandal as a black cloud?

"If it wasn't the Cleveland Browns, I would say no," linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. "I tell you what, there's always something lingering somewhere."

It's a telling line from Jackson, and one that speaks to the culture that's pervaded the organization for too long. There's always a shoe -- lingering somewhere -- waiting to drop.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.

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