BEREA — Rookie receiver Josh Gordon stopped running the go route, and Colt McCoy’s pass hit the ground with a thud. The closest sets of hands belonged to defensive backs.
Coach Pat Shurmur had seen enough and replaced Gordon with Joshua Cribbs. Offensive coordinator Brad Childress reminded Gordon not so subtly — from about 30 yards — that he was the primary target on the play in which he chose to loaf.
The accelerated education of Gordon continued Sunday afternoon with a timeout. It was a quick one, as Gordon soon returned to work with the starters. The Browns don’t have the luxury of bringing him along slowly.
“He’s a rookie in the NFL and so he learns everything by doing it,” Shurmur said. “He’s an extremely talented guy, but he needs to do it. He needs to be inspired and motivated.
“For young players that are going through things for the first or maybe the second time, then you’re a little bit more patient with that as they develop. As we all get closer to the season we become less and less patient about everything.”
Gordon was a late addition to the roster as a second-round pick in the supplemental draft in July. He hadn’t played in a game since 2010 at Baylor and spent the first six months of this year working out on his own in Houston, where finding a quarterback to throw to him wasn’t easy.
He has NFL size (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) and speed (4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and the Browns believe he has first-round talent. They are trying to tap into it immediately to strengthen a weak position.
“I’d like to say I’m a self-motivated kind of guy, but hearing it from my teammates and hearing it from my coaches definitely helps as well ’cause it just shows that they actually do really care and want to bring the best out of you,” Gordon said. “It’s necessary for a lot of the times because you get tired and you get down and might miss a play or mess up. You might need some of that confidence to boost you back up to go out there and do it again.”
Gordon’s first game action in nearly two years came Friday in the preseason opener in Detroit. He was the fourth wideout on the depth chart and saw time with the starters and second team. He was targeted three times but didn’t make a catch.
He had a short out from Weeden go off his hands, though the pass was a little low. He couldn’t bring in a deep sideline throw from Colt McCoy that he got a hand on. And rookie cornerback Dwight Bentley jumped an out route for an incompletion that was almost an interception.
“I was disappointed in myself,” Gordon said. “I want to do better the next game and actually prove myself and go out there and showcase what I can do. I know it’s a whole lot more than what I have shown that past game.”
Shurmur last week said Gordon had “camp legs” and cornerback Joe Haden said his production slows throughout practice because he gets tired. Gordon said he’s fought through the first rookie wall.
“I’m in a whole lot better shape now than I was coming into camp,” he said.
Childress pulled Gordon aside later in practice for a calm one-on-one chat. Gordon responded to the coaching with a few catches.
Gordon called the Detroit game “a wild experience” and said he was glad to have it out of the way. He was surprised by the size of the defensive backs and regretted not knowing their tendencies.
“What I’m trying to do is figure out how to get more wide open so I can get a cleaner catch and produce more after the catch, too,” he said. “They’re there, on your back, on your hip every time you slow down and try to run your route.”
The Browns are counting on an immediate impact from Gordon. He was in line to be the No. 3 receiver behind Greg Little and Mohamed Massaquoi, but could be pressed into a starting role if Massaquoi isn’t ready to go following a concussion Friday.
“I feel like that’s the reason they brought me out here, regardless of the statistics of it, just to come out here and contribute as much as I can, if it’s starting or backing up whoever,” Gordon said.
Fifteen players on the 90-man roster sat out practice with injuries.
The list (with injury, if known): Massaquoi (concussion), cornerback Dimitri Patterson (ankle), running back Trent Richardson (arthroscopic knee surgery), defensive tackle Scott Paxson (knee), receiver Travis Benjamin, linebacker Scott Fujita, tight end Jordan Cameron (back), tight end Benjamin Watson, linebacker Chris Gocong (Achilles), linebacker D’Qwell Jackson (shoulder), defensive end Marcus Benard, defensive end Frostee Rucker, safety Usama Young, fullback Eddie Williams and defensive tackle Phil Taylor (torn pectoral).
Benjamin and Fujita played Friday and weren’t announced as injured but weren’t on the field at all Sunday.
“They were sore from the game,” Shurmur said.
Patterson and Paxson left the game and didn’t return and were also absent Sunday.
“It’s hard to tell when those guys will all be back,” he said. “They got nicked up in the game and we’ll see.”
Massaquoi took a shot to the head on the first play against Detroit and left the game. Shurmur announced it as a concussion, but Massaquoi tweeted it wasn’t and that he was held out for precautionary reasons. Shurmur was upset with the tweet.
“I told you what happened and that’s what happened,” he said. “He had a concussion and we’re treating as so.”
Jackson said he’s fine and the time off is just precautionary.
- Shurmur said the starters will play the entire first half Thursday in Green Bay. The starters usually play the most in the third preseason game, but Philadelphia is also the opponent Week 1 of the regular season.
- Rookie seventh-round pick Trevin Wade replaced Patterson as the first-team nickelback. Undrafted rookie L.J. Fort took Jackson’s spot at middle linebacker.
- Another big crowd watched practice, 2,913.