September 10, 2014

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Browns Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon called his yearlong NFL suspension the ''worst experience I had in my life'' but vowed to come back a better person once he's allowed to play again.

Gordon, who hasn't spoken to local media members since April, did an extensive interview with ondecker.com (http://bit.ly/1uwFyp1 ) in which he claims he's not addicted to drugs and believes his case is affecting the possibility the NFL will change its drug policy.

During the interview, Gordon maintains he failed a drug test for marijuana because he was exposed to secondhand smoke. Before his positive test, Gordon said he was clean and had passed 70 tests.

He denied having a drug problem.

''Definitely not,'' he said. ''In this case I was exposed to it from secondhand and prior to I've been drug free and been staying that way. This incident has been causing a backlash of negative attention and negative media of me being an addict or junkie or using drugs terribly too much, which is definitely not the case. I'd definitely like to have that out in the open and be clear with that for sure.''

The 23-year-old said learning he had been suspended shook him deeply.

''I was definitely upset, heartbroken because you won't able to play ultimately for a full year,'' he said. ''You get emotional, you get depressed. You touch all of the emotions I believe at once. It was definitely a dark period of time for me. Definitely the worst experience I had in my life for sure, having your livelihood possibly taken away so now we're just trying to turn it into a positive and take the best things out of it we can.''

Gordon believes his case is part of the negotiations taking place between the league and the player's union for a revamped drug policy. The NFLPA has delayed a vote on the league's proposal for changes that potentially could implement HGH testing.

Gordon, who was suspended two games last season, feels his muddled situation has partly provided an impetus for change.

''I do believe my situation had a lot to do with it,'' he said, ''for the mere fact I guess the disparity and controversy with the policy and how close it was. It somewhat made me the poster child for advancing into a new, a different policy. I'm sure it's a good thing and a bad thing as well. Sad I had to be the example for it as well. It's good to see, I guess, progression made in the league and that they're doing something about it.''

Gordon acknowledged checking into a rehab clinic in California following a drunken driving arrest in July. He said the clinic found that he ''wasn't addicted to anything.''

As Gordon's saga has dragged on, several of his teammates are holding out hope he'll be reinstated or have his suspension reduced.

''Yeah, we have hope alive for that,'' safety Donte Whitner said. ''You always want that. He was our best player on offense. He was the leading receiver in the National Football League last year. That would be a huge boost for us if he does come back. If not, we still have guys that can make plays. We hope for the best. Prepare for the worst.''

Gordon said he's grateful for the support he's received from the Browns.

''I'm sure another team wouldn't mind letting me go or cut me or something like that, but they believed in me and knew that there was something more to my character not only from the negative but more so than the positive they saw in me and they wanted to stick with me,'' he said. ''So I appreciate them for that.''

Gordon led the league in receiving yards last season, when he established himself as one of the league's elite playmakers. He's determined to come back, and when he does, Gordon intends to be better than ever - on and off the field.

''I'm looking forward to not letting anyone down, myself included,'' he said. ''I think I can go above and beyond expectations and be a figure head in the community and be something for Cleveland to be proud of.''

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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