BY Art Thiel 07:07PM 12/16/2019

Thiel: Addiction’s grip pulls Gordon from Hawks

The NFL suspended indefinitely WR Josh Gordon for violating its drug policy. The risk was worth it for the Seahawks, the shame is that addiction is so powerful.

WR Josh Gordon in his first week with the Seahawks. / Rod Mar, Seahawks.com

The grip on Josh Gordon goes way back.

“Initially it started for me, (because of) a lot of childhood and adolescent trauma-based fear,” he said. “I was using in my childhood. That environment brought me into that a lot sooner than a normal—whatever normal is—kid should be brought into that, to be able to make a decision on their own of what to do.

“I didn’t want to feel anxiety, I didn’t want to feel fear. I didn’t plan on living to 18. Day-to-day life, what’s gonna happen next? So you self-medicate with Xanax, with marijuana, codeine—to help numb those nerves so you can just function every day. That became the norm from middle school to high school. So by the time I got into my 20s, I was on an accelerated pace.”

The accelerated pace caught up to him again Monday, when the NFL announced that the Seahawks wide receiver’s seven-game career in Seattle was over, suspending him indefinitely for violating its policies on performance-enhancing substances as well substances of abuse. It was the eighth suspension of his career. Sports Illustrated compiled the list here.

Neither the Seahawks nor the public will know when the violations happened or what the drugs were, unless Gordon, 28, chooses to share the information. And he could. The quote above comes from an extensive, candid interview in GQ magazine in November 2017, in which he shared his struggle with addiction.

For now, the league and the players union bargained collectively the rules of surrounding the policies: The league administers the tests, tells the club the results and has authority to dispense punishment. That removes the risk that unscrupulous clubs will hide or fake results.

So the Seahawks were as surprised — or not-so-much surprised — as the public when the news came Monday. Somewhere between his ebullient morning interview on ESPN 710 and a more somber 3 p.m. press conference, coach Pete Carroll learned he had lost the player who made Sunday what might have been the club’s catch of the year — a fully extended leap to snatch the back end of the ball with his fingertips.

The 59-yard reception in the 30-24 win at Carolina suggested that the Seahawks were unwrapping a potent weapon to unleash in the playoffs.

“I don’t even look at it like that,” Carroll said. “He’s had impact to some extent every game, but this isn’t about that. It’s about Josh getting well.

“Our heart goes out to Josh having to face this again. He’s up against it. It poses a great challenge to him. Fortunately, he’ll have the benefit of all the league’s resources to help him. We wish him the very best in taking care of business. It’s very unfortunate.”

By CBA rules, Gordon and the club can have no further contact, not even to ask what happened.

“We saw Josh at a really high level the whole time he was here,” said Carroll, answering a question about whether any signs were apparent. “The work ethic, getting along with people, being good to work with and talk to on a regular basis . . . He was great. We were not aware that there was anything to be concerned about, other than the history, which we knew about.”

Gordon seemed fully embraced by the Seahawks.

It’s been great, actually,” Gordon told The News Tribune last week. “Spent the holiday with some families, some teammates here. They extended their homes to let me to come out for Thanksgiving.

“It’s been a great transition, to be honest with you . . . “Football aside, I would definitely love to live in a place like this.”

The Seahawks Nov. 1 claimed Gordon off waivers from New England, which signed the free agent in April to a one-year, $2 million contract. He made six starts and caught 20 balls on 36 targets for 287 yards and a touchdown. After he returned from a minor knee injury, the Patriots cut him, offering no reason, although there were rumors of meetings missed or arriving late.

Despite having an All-Pro season in his 2013 rookie year with Cleveland of 87 catches for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns, 27 teams ahead of Seattle passed on the chance to put in a low-risk claim. Before Sunday’s big catch, he had six receptions for 81 yards.

Now he’s been removed from a third team in his six years and is away from a supportive atmosphere.

“I feel for him in that regard,” Carroll said. ‘He’s in a really close-knit group. He fit in and did really well. Josh has been through this before, unfortunately. Talking with him before, he does know where the help comes from. He does use the resources the league offers.

Just wishing him the best and hoping he can do well.”

The NFL statement saying that he tested positive in both categories sounds odious, but that could mean something as basic as Adderall, which former Seahawk Richard Sherman once said infamously that “half the league” was on, and marijuana, which is legal in Washington. Or it could be something else.

Whatever was his circumstance, the 11-3 Seahawks are in the playoffs and will move on with minimal disruption.

“I don’t think this is going to affect us in a tremendous way,” he said. “All of our guys can play. We’re going to be in good shape. I love the position group.”

The risk with Gordon was worth taking. For him as well as the Seahawks, it’s a shame addiction’s grip is so insidious and potent.

 


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YourThoughts

  • Alan Harrison

    Tragic on so many levels. But, next man up. I hope he gets the therapy he needs (not just a 28 day program, but a real life changer) so that he can get on with the rest of his life, something most players find unbearable when they’re sober.

    So, next man up: Seahawks to feature more John Ursua? Take Lil’Jordan Humphrey from the Dallas practice squad (good in college and 6’4″)? Bring up Penny Hart? Or fill in at another needy position?

    • art thiel

      Johnny U, as Pete calls him, is the likeliest guy for action. They like him a lot and he was active at CAR. Might have some Baldwin in him.

      • Alan Harrison

        Now, now – you, Pete, and I all know that Johnny U played for two teams that don’t play there anymore. Still, maybe they should give Ursua #19 as long as Keenan Reynolds isn’t using it! 😉

        • art thiel

          I should ask Ursua if he knows who Johnny U is.

          • tor5

            When Ursua comes out with a crewcut and high tops, he’ll earn the moniker.

      • tor5

        Maybe they should have another go at that trick-play Josh Gordon pass that got picked by the Panthers, only let Johnny U pass it next time!

        • art thiel

          After that outcome, I’d table the play for a couple of decades or so.

  • Guy K. Browne

    It’s unfortunate that just when it looked like he found a home, the sort of situation that can possibly break the cycle, it all comes apart like this. Really too bad on so many levels.
    Get better Josh, we’re all rooting for you.

    • art thiel

      If the Seahawks can’t help him through, he needs to break from the NFL and seek a longer-term program. He’s really helpess, given wha the GQ story described.

  • WestCoastBias79

    I think this is more proof that punitive treatment for drug addiction doesn’t work. Granted, if he was on performance enhancers, that’s a different issue, but considering his past, I’d hazard a guess it wasn’t.

    The MLB removed marijuana from it’s banned substances and the NFL would be wise to. As someone who personally has treated my own spinal stenosis successfully with doctor prescribed and monitored cannabis treatment (Pain relief without the side effects–you can dose edible THC to provide pain relief and not get high.), it would probably help keep a lot of guys off the harder stuff.

    • art thiel

      I get the part about the futility of criminalizing addiction, but that’s not the same as suspending a player for violating rules agreed upon with the players union. The NFL’s need for equality of competition mandates no player getting an artificial edge. And any suspended player is provided addiction treatment at the NFL’s expense. It’s in the league’s self-interest to help players, not punish them. But it can go only so far, per rules in the CBA.

  • wabubba67

    If reinstated in the future, do the Seahawks retain his rights or will he be a free agent?

    • art thiel

      He was on a one-year contact that he signed with NE, which will expire at season’s end, so he’ll be a free agent.

  • dingle

    Reading about this made me very sad yesterday. Nothing else to add. I hope he gets the help he needs, now that he’s lost much of his support system, to keep the demons at bay.

    • art thiel

      That really is the foremost takeaway here. The Seahawks will move on easily. Not so for Gordon.

  • tor5

    Sad story. I can understand addiction getting the better of him when it comes to the drug of abuse, but I’m baffled by the use of a performance enhancer. That just seems reckless. In any case, I wish him well.

    • art thiel

      As I wrote, Adderall is considered a performance enhancer in the NFL. It is used by a whole lot of cops, firefighters and pro athletes who think they can get away with it. PEDs are not just steroids.

  • jafabian

    Sad to hear. Hope he can get a handle on things. I was wondering if the Hawks could claim Gary Jennings Jr and get him back but it looks like the Dolphins stashed him on IR.

    • art thiel

      Their preference at this late hour is to give a few plays to rookie Ursua, but Malik Turner seems have emerged after Lockett and Metcalf as No. 3.

  • Husky73

    This country is saturated in drugs (and guns). Americans love their drugs. They just cannot get enough of them. The reason there are Mexican cartels and bloody gun violence on American streets every day is because Americans WANT their drugs, want MORE drugs and LOVE their drugs. With demand comes supply– and destroyed lives, families and communities follow.

    • art thiel

      Lots more than Americans love drugs. But many of them live in more advanced countries where more things are legal, and victims of the illegal stuff are treated in an enlightened manner.

    • jafabian

      Gordon said in his interview that his drug use is from addiction and a form of escape from his childhood issues. Addiction is a disease not a habit. If anything the NFL isn’t doing him or the League itself any favors by readmitting him over and over again.

      • Husky73

        jafabian…I have long been troubled by this matter— addiction vs. choice. My brother had MS. It happened to him through no deed of his own. My father was an alcoholic. It was his choice to drink. Eventually, the alcohol created chronic physical and brain disorders, which, I suppose can be defined as a disease. Gordon continues to make the choice to put harmful drugs into his body. As an adult, that’s his choice. I hope Gordon overcomes, and achieves good health and happiness. He is a very young man with his adult life ahead of him. But, it’s not as if he was diagnosed with ALS. At some point, it is about personal responsibility. Do you understand my conflict?

        • jafabian

          When an alcoholic or drug addict continues their habit many times they can’t help themselves. Just because they pick up the glass doesn’t necessarily mean they can help themselves. Sometimes they have unresolved issues that drives them to their unhealthy habit. Everyone is different. Considering how many times Gordon has been fined and suspended and how he’s lost salary due to his addiction shows he’s on a very dangerous path and possibly can’t help himself. He did a TV interview that was very complimentary to the Seahawks and about Seattle. If he could he’d still be playing but his substance abuse addiction prevents him from making good decisions.

  • coug73

    Blessings to Josh Gordon and all who struggle with addiction. May they find peace and release from their addiction.