Browns star receiver Josh Gordon back at practice
BEREA, Ohio (AP) Josh Gordon can't do anything to change his past. He knows there are doubters who believe it's just a matter of time before he slips up again.
Gordon is looking forward. Straight ahead.
''The only thing I can control is what I do on the field,'' the Pro Bowler said. ''So that's what I'm doing. I can't control the masses. That's not my job.''
The Browns' supremely talented wide receiver who easily outruns defensive backs but can't seem to steer clear of trouble returned to his job Wednesday, practicing for the first time since his 10-game suspension for repeated drug violations ended.
The league's leader in yards receiving last season - despite missing two games - Gordon has returned just in time to give Cleveland a much needed offensive jolt.
Browns coach Mike Pettine plans to bring Gordon back slowly this week, but No. 12 expects to be on the field Sunday when they visit the Atlanta Falcons.
''It's great to be back,'' he said. ''I'm very ready. I've had a long time to get ready for it.''
Surrounded by cameras and reporters, Gordon was a bit nervous as he described the challenges of his long layoff. He was repentant, saying he knows his actions hurt the Browns but also his family.
''There's a lot of people I feel I owe,'' he said. ''My family members, friends, people that felt more embarrassed about it. The people closest to me feel it harder than anybody and I feel as though I owe them as well as the Browns, but I'd like to do that by performing well.''
In his first game back after serving a two-game suspension last season, Gordon caught 10 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown in a win over Minnesota.
Gordon feels he can come in from the cold and deliver a similar performance this week against the Falcons (4-6).
''I definitely think I can,'' he said.
Gordon showed some rustiness by dropping two passes during the portion of practice open to media members. But the sight of the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder, with his smooth stride and rare explosiveness off the line, had to be warming to quarterback Brian Hoyer and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who hasn't been able to include him in a game plan this season.
''Being out there with him today you can see he's excited to be out there,'' said Hoyer, who targeted Gordon 19 times in the game against the Vikings last season. ''He wants to be a part of the team.''
Pettine is downplaying how much Gordon will be used this week, but Falcons coach Mike Smith expects the Pro Bowler to have an immediate impact.
''We're anticipating seeing Josh Gordon out there on the very first play and seeing him out there for the majority of the plays in the ball game,'' Smith said on a conference call.
Pettine cautioned that Gordon may not be ready - mentally or physically. The Browns intend to keep Gordon on a ''pitch count'' in practice and build up his reps as the week moves on.
''There needs to be a progression,'' Pettine said. ''''The trap to fall into is, `Hey, he's back and let's just go ahead and throw him out there for a bunch of plays.' There's certainly danger inherent in doing that and we have to be smart with how we do it.''
Gordon was on the cusp of superstardom last season, when he amassed 1,646 yards receiving and scored nine touchdowns. However, he failed another test for marijuana and wound up being punished by the league. Gordon was initially banned by the league for a year but had his suspension reduced in September.
Gordon said he considered suing the league, but believes the penalty against him was fair.
''We came to a reasonable conclusion,'' he said. ''Both sides might not have gotten exactly what we both wanted, but we compromised and I think we worked it out just fine. Considering the rules and that prior rules were broken, they had every right to do exactly what they did.''
The time away made Gordon more patient and appreciative. He's paid his price and doesn't want to let anyone down again.
To do that, he must stay on the field.
''I just want to control what I can control, and that's playing my hardest and working my hardest, 16 weeks next season and these last six games this season, however long I'm in Cleveland,'' he said. ''That's just what I want to do.''
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL