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.
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.