CLEVELAND - Josh Gordon has been pushed out of bounds again by the NFL. And this time, there's no guarantee he'll be back.
The troubled wide receiver was suspended by the league for at least one year without pay on Tuesday for violating the league's substance-abuse program. The 23-year-old's third suspension since turning pro has placed his once promising career in jeopardy and could be the end of his days with the Browns.
Gordon, who has already served two league suspensions for drug violations, will have to apply for reinstatement. A league spokesman said his one-year ban begins immediately, meaning he will miss the entire 2015 season and forfeit his $1.07 million salary and a portion of the $2.3 million bonus he got while signing a four-year contract in 2012.
The former Pro Bowler has been a repeat offender of the league's drug policy, and his latest offence seems to have driven a deep wedge between him and the Browns.
General manager Ray Farmer was blunt in responding to Gordon's latest troubles.
"As we have conveyed, we are disappointed to once again be at this point with Josh," Farmer said in a statement. "Throughout his career we have tried to assist him in getting support like we would with any member of our organization. Unfortunately our efforts have not resonated with him."
Farmer said Gordon needs to make substantial strides to live up to the team's expectations.
"Our hope is that this suspension affords Josh the opportunity to gain some clarity in determining what he wants to accomplish moving forward and if he wants a career in the Nation Football League," he said.
Last week, Gordon said his failed test was for alcohol. He was prohibited from drinking for the 2014 season because of previous violations. Gordon said in an open letter posted online that he erroneously thought the season was over when he drank on a flight to Las Vegas with teammates a few days after the Browns lost in their season finale to Baltimore.
Gordon appeared on the brink of superstardom when he led the league with 1,646 yards in 2013 despite playing in just 14 games. But instead of building on his breakout season, he was suspended for the first 10 games last season, and when he came back Gordon did not provide the spark the Browns needed.
Gordon said in his letter he has not decided if he will appeal his latest suspension. His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
Gordon's suspension is another troubling development for the Browns, who announced on Monday that quarterback Johnny Manziel entered a treatment program last week for an unspecified condition. The team once considered Gordon and Manziel as part of their future core, but now neither player can be counted on and it remains to be seen how long they will remain on Cleveland's roster.
Gordon entered the pros with a track record of substance abuse problems. He was dismissed at Baylor and Utah for multiple positive tests for marijuana. Despite knowing the risks, the Browns selected him in the 2012 supplemental draft. Gordon was suspended for the first two games in 2013 for what he claimed for codeine in his prescribed cough syrup.
He was suspended indefinitely last season, but had his penalty reduced to 10 games after the league revised its drug policy. While awaiting an appeal on his suspension, Gordon was arrested for DUI in North Carolina and he was cited for traffic violations in Ohio.
Gordon briefly checked himself into rehab, and the Browns held out hope he would straighten out. However, coach Mike Pettine said Gordon was late for multiple meetings and the team suspended him for the season finale at Baltimore after he failed to attend a walk-through before the team's flight to Maryland.
When he did play, Gordon seemed disinterested on the field and he even acknowledged running the wrong pass routes.