A day after receiver Josh Gordon had again apparently become a Seahawk, his return to the field has been put on hold after he was reported to have a setback in his battle with substance abuse.
The Seattle Times learned Tuesday that the NFL had told Gordon and the Seahawks that Gordon had not satisfied the terms of his conditional reinstatement from suspension. The league said Gordon may attend team meetings and individual workouts, but he is ineligible to participate in practices or games.
A report later Tuesday from Tom Pelissero of The NFL Network, the league’s official media arm, stated that Gordon “had a setback in his battle with substance abuse and now won’t be allowed to practice or play indefinitely.”
That leaves it unclear when — or if — Gordon will play again.
The news was a stunning blow for the Seahawks, after Gordon had returned to the team’s active roster Monday after more than a year away.
On Monday the league listed on its official transactions that Gordon was no longer on the commissioner’s exempt list and was on Seattle’s 53-player roster. The Seahawks also announced that Gordon was on the 53-player roster.
But on Tuesday the NFL transactions showed that Gordon was back on the commissioner’s exempt list, indicating that something had changed in his status. Sources and reports confirmed that Gordon was back to being suspended and that his playing future is unclear.
Being on the exempt list means that he does not count against Seattle’s 53-player roster until the NFL determines if he has satisfied the terms of his reinstatement.
After it was announced Monday that Gordon was back on the roster, coach Pete Carroll told reporters that the receiver would practice this week with the thought he could play Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams. The Seahawks would clinch the NFC West with a win.
“We’re planning the week like he has a chance to contribute,” Carroll said Monday.
The Seahawks on Monday waived receiver Penny Hart to make room for Gordon on the roster. Hart on Tuesday cleared waivers, so he is available to Seattle if needed. There are indications the Seahawks may bring him back to fill out the receiving corps for Sunday’s game.
Gordon has not played since Dec 15, 2019. He was suspended the next day for violating the league’s policies on performance-enhancing drugs and substances of abuse.
His suspension, which was the eighth of his career by either the league or a team since he entered the NFL in 2012, was conditionally lifted Dec. 3. After he passed through the league’s COVID-19 protocol he was allowed to attend meetings and workouts.
“I’m anxious to see how he looks quickness-wise with everybody else,” Carroll said Monday. “Last year he jumped in, and it was immediately obvious that he could compete. I’ll be surprised if he’s not like that, because his workouts have looked so good. But we’ll see what happens.”
Gordon emerged as Seattle’s third receiver last year after being claimed off waivers from the Patriots in November. He had seven receptions for 139 yards before being indefinitely suspended.
Seattle re-signed Gordon again last August as the preseason was ending to a one-year deal worth up to the veteran minimum of $910,000 but with no guaranteed money. He has not counted against the roster while suspended.
Gordon has already missed 16 regular-season games and both of Seattle’s playoff games last year since being suspended. It’s unclear how many more he may miss — Seattle has two more regular-season games and has clinched a playoff berth.
It was thought Gordon could step back into the third-receiver role, which has been held by David Moore, who has played 46% of the offensive snaps this year. That’s third after the 92% for DK Metcalf and 88% for Tyler Lockett. Rookie Freddie Swain has played 33% of the snaps. Hart, who had played 60 snaps overall, has been the only other receiver this season on the active roster.
Gordon, 29, was a first team All-Pro pick in 2013 with Cleveland when he led the NFL with 1,646 receiving yards on 87 receptions.
But he was suspended early in the 2014 season and played only five games, and then missed the 2015 and 2016 seasons due to further suspensions, derailing a promising career.
His arrival in Seattle last year marked what he hoped would be a fresh start, and he said in December 2019 that he had found the place he could call home for as long as he played.
“Absolutely. Absolutely,” Gordon said last year when asked if he hoped to stay with the Seahawks long term. “I mean, that’s my hope, thinking optimistically. I think that’s anybody’s goal, any player’s goal, to try to find a place you can call home in all aspects.”
Gordon showed his enthusiasm for Seattle and the Seahawks by returning to the city to work out during the offseason and often taking to social media to post about workouts and the team.
“It’s just the culture,” Gordon said of why he felt comfortable with the Seahawks. “It’s just different, something that I think has felt more like a fit, I guess, to me. … It’s hard to explain. It’s hard to explain why I like it here.”
But Tuesday’s news delivered another jolt of reality that left Gordon’s long-hoped-for return to the field again in question.