MINNEAPOLIS – Receiver Josh Gordon was already motivated to make up for lost time following a two-game suspension to start the season. He got an extra dose of desire before the game Sunday when ESPN reported the Browns had been trying to trade him.
“It was made aware to me that there might be a rumor or whatnot, but I knew I just had to go out there and play regardless,” Gordon said after a 31-27 win over the Vikings. “I wanted to go out there and prove myself.”
Did he ever.
Gordon proved he’s an essential piece of the offense, perhaps the most important. He proved he’s hard to stop when in the right mindset. He proved the Browns (1-2) are immeasurably better with him in the lineup on every play.
Gordon caught 10 passes for 146 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown on a double move down the left sideline. He added a 22-yard end-around and a 30-yard catch-and-run after a quick hitch that demonstrated just how much he wanted to succeed. He wouldn’t be brought down by a single defender and drove his way for extra yardage.
“It is great to have Josh back,” quarterback Brian Hoyer said. “Obviously, he is a game-changer. He is a big guy and can move, go and get the ball, and he also frees up some other guys.”
Gordon missed the first two weeks after violating the league’s substance-abuse policy in the offseason. He said he was prescribed cough medicine that contained codeine. He acknowledged last week another failed drug test would earn him a year-long ban.
CEO Joe Banner has said Gordon’s running out of chances, but ESPN’s Adam Caplan reported he’s been on the trade block for several weeks and Banner wants him out, citing a source. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported at least one team has made a quality offer for Gordon, but the Browns won’t make a trade unless it improves.
The trade of starting running back Trent Richardson on Wednesday put everyone on notice.
“So it can happen at any given time,” Gordon said. “Whatever decision is made, that’s above me.
“You’ve got to go out there and play. If you’re going to go out there and not be focused, you might get your head knocked off. So I had to go out there and stand between the lines.”
Gordon and Hoyer were the additions to an offense that scored 16 points in the first two losses. Injured quarterback Brandon Weeden (sprained right thumb) had to be wondering what he could’ve done with the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder who has the speed to run away from a defense.
Gordon said the outburst inside the Metrodome didn’t change his desire to remain with the Browns.
“I always want to stay here and be a Cleveland Brown and help this organization as much as possible,” he said. “I love the offense, love Norv (Turner, coordinator) and Coach Chud (Rob Chudzinski), I’m learning a lot. From a wide receiver standpoint, it’s the best offense to be in and I can’t complain at all.”
The trade talk couldn’t detract from a stunning return. Hoyer targeted Gordon 19 times and they connected three times for 26 yards on the winning drive, including an 11-yarder on third-and-10 to get things going.
“It felt great. I was definitely excited to be out there, really amped up about it, and I think we came out there and did exactly what we planned on doing,” Gordon said. “Emotionally it was definitely a big game for me. I knew this week was going to have to be a huge week for me.”
Chudzinski was thrilled to have him back. The offense started to resemble what he and Turner had envisioned.
“He came up huge, made a lot of big plays for us and I think that opened up a lot of different things as well for other guys,” he said.
Receiver Greg Little is also available through trade, according to ESPN. He was demoted from his starting role after dropping four passes in the first two games, but caught three for 19 with no drops Sunday and returned to two-receiver sets for much of the second half. He also returned kickoffs for the first time. He was unavailable for comment.
Gordon was available to Hoyer and reporters.
“Coach yesterday before the game was talking about somebody starting a spark, starting a fire, and everybody felt that today,” he said. “It was a very emotional game for everybody and we knew we had to come out here and prove something this week.
“An away game, we needed a win. It’s not just me but everybody just working together to make it happen.”