Fresh off a near three-year hiatus, embattled Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon will return to the football field on Dec. 3 for the first time since 2014. Substance abuse and suspensions have zapped the winds out the sails of what appeared to be a bright career but after two-plus seasons away from the NFL, Gordon is back. Walking into an 0-11 record, the cards tilt in Gordons’s favor to get as much exposure as possible. But should we be expecting the same dynamic wideout that led the league in receiving yards and torched defenders back in 2013? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate what you should expect.

FILE – In this Sept. 1, 2016, file photo, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon catches a pass before an NFL preseason football game against the Chicago Bears in Cleveland. Gordon will play in an NFL regular-season game for the first time since 2014 on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017 when Cleveland visits the Los Angeles Chargers. Browns coach Hue Jackson said he has “big plans” for Gordon, a former All-Pro who was suspended the past two seasons for multiple drug violations. Gordon returned to practice last week and wowed his teammates. (AP Photo/David Richard, File)

Riley: It’s never easy to take time off and return to form, especially in the NFL. But if there is any skill position where such a substantial feat is possible it’s at wide receiver. Gordon is one of the best in the business, and some seasons off may have actually helped him as he’s avoided the regular pounding that accompanies NFL players. He was already a prodigy as a supplemental draft star and a few seasons off to reflect and appreciate the opportunity and talent he has might’ve done him some good.

Green: Today’s NFL moves a lot faster, and it is a lot more complicated to have a guy who missed almost three seasons just walk back on the field and dominate. We’re all rooting for Gordon to return to form but, realistically, it might not happen until next season. I can’t see a guy stepping in this late in the season and having an immediate impact. It’s not probable and might not be for a guy who’s coming off battling substance abuse and alcohol problems.

Riley: There are guys playing in the NFL right now with undisclosed substance abuse and alcohol problems but you just don’t hear about them. For every Gordon there’s a guy who has not been exposed, still battling his own problems behind closed doors and still making an impact. We’ve created a poster boy out of Gordon for his issues but he’s not really all that different than probably half of the league. The reasons why he’s been away shouldn’t have that much of a direct impact on his performance, and after years of having his name dragged  through the mud, I’m not betting against him to explode back on the scene.

Green: All the motivation in the world might not help a two-year layoff and let’s keep in mind he’s still playing for the Cleveland Browns. How much damage will he really do? The quarterback situation is a nightmare and the overall offense is abysmal. He’s still a product of his environment and his football environment is, hands down, the worst in the league. A long layoff coupled with the worst team in the league doesn’t add up for an amazing comeback.


Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley

AFRO Sports Desk