The Cleveland Browns receiver -- who hasn't played in a regular-season game since 2014 -- is set to be reinstated on a conditional basis by the NFL, the league announced Wednesday.
"Effective immediately, Gordon may join the Browns to attend meetings, engage in conditioning work and individual workouts," the league stated in a release. "Subject to compliance with clinical and other requirements, he will be placed on the Commissioner's Exempt list and be permitted to practice with the team beginning on Monday, November 20. Beginning Monday, November 27, Gordon will be eligible at the team's discretion to return to active status or to remain on the Commissioner's Exempt list for an additional week before returning to active status."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell left the responsibility to remain eligible up to Gordon in his statement.
"As emphasized at today's meeting, everyone -- including Josh's teammates and coaches, the Browns' ownership and organization, the Program professionals and all of us at the league office -- want him to have every opportunity to resume his career and to be successful in the NFL," Goodell said. "Whether that happens, however, at the end of the day will depend on Josh. His commitment to sobriety and to reaching his goals in football and beyond will determine his success. It ultimately is up to Josh."
Gordon's last game came in Week 16 of the 2014 season, when the Browns fell to the Carolina Panthers 17-13. The receiver was suspended without pay for at least one year on Feb. 3, 2015, after he tested positive for alcohol, which violated the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse due to Gordon's past DUI.
He was working toward a return in 2016, participating in training camp and Cleveland's preseason. That never happened, as Gordon voluntarily checked himself into an in-patient rehabilitation facility in October to "gain full control of my life," ending his chance of playing that season and adding another chapter to Cleveland's frustration with the immensely talented player who had plenty of off-field struggles.
That claim wasn't enough then for Commissioner Goodell, but after nearly six more months of positive progress, he's decided to give Gordon another shot.
The Browns, who have been part of every step of Gordon's tumultuous career, will offer Gordon an opportunity to contribute, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.
"We've been informed of the league's decision to reinstate Josh," Browns EVP of Football Operations Sashi Brown said in a statement obtained by Rapoport. "The personal well-being of all our players is of the utmost importance to us. We respect and commend Josh for taking the steps necessary to have the opportunity to return to the league. Josh will be in our building in the coming days and we look forward to having him back and sitting with him to discuss his future on our team."
The last time Gordon was on the field, he was undoubtedly Cleveland's best player, and one of the league's best receivers when fully invested. The wideout set the league on fire in 2013, leading it in receiving yards (1,646) despite only playing in 14 of the possible 16 games. At 26 years old, he should just be entering his prime, but he hasn't played in a game in 1,046 days.
Selected in the supplemental draft out of Utah (where he transferred from Baylor, but never actually played), Gordon recorded 137 receptions for 2,451 yards and 14 scores in his first 30 career games. For his career, he has 161 receptions for 2,754 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Should he abide by the conditions laid out for his reinstatement, Gordon immediately gives Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer a big-bodied and incredibly talented weapon. That is, if he's anywhere near he was three seasons ago. His play in the 2016 preseason suggested he was still near there, which will be welcomed with open arms to a receiving corps that is missing injured target Corey Coleman and has gotten just about nothing out of free-agent addition Kenny Britt. Over a year later, Cleveland will get to see what they have in Gordon, a surprise addition to a foundering offense desperate for help.