NFL Roundup: Josh Gordon Is Gone, Cam Is Hurt, But Bortles Is Here

What’s happening around the NFL this week?

Josh Gordon Is Gone

It took a month for the decision to be final, but Josh Gordon was officially suspended for the season on Wednesday. I wrote about this a month ago and there’s not much more to say — the NFL’s backward drug policy is consistent with everything else that’s backward about the NFL. But Wednesday afternoon someone asked me, “What do you really think of the Josh Gordon situation?”

Just for fun, a couple of final thoughts.

1. The testing process left plenty of room for doubt, but Gordon probably smoked weed.

2. Also, looking at his history, he’s clearly not great at decision-making, so it’s not like he’s blameless here. Both for the decisions that put him in this position, and the weed he (probably) smoked this spring.

3. None of that makes it any less ridiculous that the NFL is suspending him for an entire fucking year. It’s possible for Gordon to be stupid and the NFL to be even stupider. Give him five games, or even eight, and that still sends the exact same message the NFL wants to send. Banning him from the league — and contact with the Browns — hurts everyone involved. It’s adhering to the letter of a collectively bargained drug program that makes no sense. A yearlong suspension for repeat steroid users feels fair; treating marijuana the same as steroids feels insane.

4. That’s why the testing controversy mattered. Not because it proved Gordon was innocent, but because it gave the people running the league (and/or the arbitrator) plenty of leeway to negotiate a reduced suspension to something more reasonable without looking like it was suddenly abandoning the drug penalties altogether.

5. Man, the people comparing this to the Ray Rice situation aren’t exactly wrong, but there are better arguments to have. Compare it to Matt Prater — the guy who was facing the exact same punishment for alcohol and then magically saw his suspension reduced to four games.

6. The NFL doesn’t owe common sense to Gordon, but it would have been a nice change of pace for the rest of us who watch this league operate week after week.

7. The Browns are so screwed.

8. Hopefully Gordon stays out of trouble this year, because the only way this suspension could get more depressing is if it leads to his whole career unraveling.

Now … on that uplifting note, let’s look elsewhere!

There’s a Bortles Rising in the Sky

Are you ready? Here are four lines from this Yahoo article:

1. While [Blaine] Gabbert seemed to shrink under pocket pressure, [Blake] Bortles has thrived. He has been compared to Ben Roethlisberger in his ability to withstand the pass rush and move deftly for someone who is so difficult to tackle.

2. “… if [Bortles] was on the field, he would do just fine,” [Mark] Brunell said. “He looks like he’s been there three or four years.”

3. “He was very comfortable in the huddle,” [rookie wide receiver Allen Hurns] said Tuesday. “Very chill, relaxed. I was very surprised.”

4. Asked if he’d ever seen Bortles rattled, Storm Johnson, a rookie running back who played with him at UCF, shrugged: “No.”


Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Jacksonville Jaguars

The only thing funnier than the Jaguars drafting Bortles in the top five would be someone named Blake Bortles turning into a superstar quarterback. And … it’s not out of the question! Granted, there’s a low bar when the points of comparison are Chad Henne and Gabbert, but at least he’s clearing that bar! Teammates say the Jags have an equal shot to win with him or Henne, and he’s only going to get better. He’s big, he’s got a ridiculous arm, and maybe it’s time for the pendulum to swing back to pocket passers after a few years of spread quarterbacks taking over the world. Who knows? I don’t know.

In the span of five weeks since training camps started, I’ve gone from pitying the Jags fans who have to talk themselves into Bortles as a star to slowly talking myself into Bortles as a star.

This might be a sign we need real football to start.

Cam Will Be … Ready?

There are a lot of red flags with the Carolina Panthers right now. So many. The offensive line without Jordan Gross, the receivers, the brutal first 10 weeks of their schedule. This was all part of what made them the most obvious playoff team due to regress this year, but if Cam Newton can’t stay healthy, the problems get a lot more basic. He missed most of the offseason workouts recovering from ankle surgery, and now he’s nursing fractured ribs that have him questionable for Week 1.

Apparently he’s not worried. “There’s no doubt in my mind,” he said when asked about playing Week 1. “My body feels better. It’s obvious my ribs [were] hurting. I’m moving forward trying to stay positive and optimistic about this whole process. It’s given me even greater focus on trying to heal my ankle at the same time.”

Another note from that article:

The rib injury occurred when New England linebacker Jamie Collins stepped on Newton’s back as the quarterback awkwardly dived forward at the end of a 7-yard scramble. Twenty-four hours earlier, Newton said he didn’t plan to change his style and slide to protect the ankle.

He indicated on Wednesday adding a slide to his repertoire isn’t part of his plans.

I love Newton, but god that’s stupid.

Then we end with this:

Newton will be re-evaluated Saturday and is expected to return to practice full time on Monday. Rivera said the game plan won’t change when it comes to running the read option in which Newton becomes a runner.

“All along, the one thing he’s said was we’re going to do what we do,” Rivera said.

Wise words from Riverboat Ron there. I would buy a book that had 365 different meaningless phrases from coaches. One for every day of the year. It it is what it isAll along, we’re going to do what we doKEEP CHOPPING WOODThey are who we thought they areNo excuses, it’s a Next Man Up leagueYou play to win the gameKill the head and the body will dieBUILD THE MONSTERIt’s gut-check time.

Football coach Zen is the best kind of Zen. Maybe we can workshop the book as the season goes along.

Also, they’re not changing the read-option game plan for a quarterback with fractured ribs? Good luck with that.

Free Brandon Meriweather?

Meriweather was suspended for the Redskins’ first two regular-season games after targeting a defenseless Torrey Smith in a preseason game. In the immediate aftermath, when there was talk of fining Meriweather, good ol’ DeAngelo Hall stepped up to be the elder statesman:

That’s right. Keep hitting, Brandon. We got your back!

Of course the NFL was going to send a message.

In light of the suspension, Skins safety Ryan Clark singled out Troy Vincent, the man now in charge of player safety fines and suspensions: “Roger [Goodell] kept full control of certain things and he passed this [the decision on safety rules fines and suspensions] on to Troy, a guy who was up for the director’s job of the NFLPA. He didn’t get it. Quickly switched sides and now this is his first opportunity to have power. This is the only power he has in the office and this is what he comes up and does. I think it just shows where he’s at.”

Others spoke out, too:

Fair point there about the preseason games. It’s also fair to say the hit came with Smith lowering his head before contact, making the point of contact lower at the last second, increasing the likelihood of an illegal hit. Even Smith said he didn’t agree with the suspension.

This is one of those situations that would ordinarily highlight the existential crisis that’s endemic to football now. They can try to make the game safer, but even the players themselves think these rules are bullshit, and at some point it feels like PR grandstanding to single out players playing the game at 150 mph for tackling six inches too high. Or running through a receiver in the open field, or making helmet-to-helmet contact. We’ll have this exact same conversation at least 15 times this year.

But it’s Brandon Meriweather this week.


You can’t ask anyone to feel bad for Meriweather. This is a man who would launch himself at receivers on every single play if it were possible. He’s been fined five times by the NFL. If there’s one person who’s really, truly cost himself the benefit of the doubt, it’s Meriweather. If there’s one player in the NFL who really, truly deserves to be suspended just for precautionary measures, it’s Meriweather.

He’s like the Ndamukong Suh of safeties, but with Hall’s talent. Don’t listen to all the players this week. This is in everyone’s best interest. Probably even the Redskins’ defense.

Richard Sherman Is Full of Truth

Hey, so how’s the NFL preseason going?

[Gets buried under a mountain of flags.]

The league’s putting an added emphasis on defensive holding this year, probably as a response to the Seahawks defense the past few years. Richard Sherman responded to it here:

“You know when the fantasy football numbers need to be what they need to be, the league needs to do what it needs to do to get it done. This is a money-driven league.” He elaborated elsewhere in that interview, saying, “It’s a little bit more, you know, of the league trying to mandate a playing style which is interesting.” And: “Selling tickets is the number one concern. And fantasy football is a phase of that. That is the next billion-dollar industry that they’re gonna protect.”

It’s also obviously designed to crack down on the defense that helped win a Super Bowl, but in general, Sherman’s probably right. The NFL has spent the last 10 years making life easier for quarterbacks and receivers on offense, and this year is just the next step. When was the last time a new “point of emphasis” has actually benefited the defense? Who knows whether it’s for TV or fantasy football, but it’s definitely happening.

Anyway, good conspiracy theory there. I look forward to revisiting this topic three weeks into the season when everyone’s flipping out about the ridiculous number of penalties in every game.

Dez Will Get Paid

On the one hand, speaking as a Cowboys fan, Dez Bryant doing ridiculous things every Sunday is one of the only things I have to look forward to this year. On the other hand, speaking as a human, I don’t understand why anyone would willingly sign on to get stuck with this mess of a franchise for the long term. Alas, that’s the goal with Dez this week. We’ll see how it goes. Every year he gets closer and closer to decapitating Jason Garrett on the sideline, and every year I hope a little more that he’ll actually do it.

Jerry Jones Believes in the Correctional System

Speaking of my favorite team: Josh Brent made a horrible mistake he’ll never live down when he killed teammate Jerry Brown in a drunk-driving accident in December 2012. It’s awful. But there was no malice, and he served his time. He deserves a second chance. But then Jerry Jones starts talking about the character-shaping virtues of prison, and why he believes in Brent now, and the whole thing starts to feel disgusting.

When you on Monday are given a roll of toilet paper and it’s got to last you until next Monday, that’s a lesson of discipline. That’s a lesson of life. That’s what happened to Josh. When you have someone next door to you that grabs your plate of food and you weigh 340 pounds but you don’t mess with him — he just looks at you, because you know that guy doesn’t care if you live or die — that’s a life experience. I think there’s a chance that Josh Brent may come out here and have a perspective that none of us have seen before, especially from Josh.

Whoooooooooo, hot prison takes!

I hate the Cowboys so much for making me deal with this man. I never would have clicked on this story if I weren’t a Cowboys fan.

He’s had that [life-changing] experience. He deserved that, and some people think he deserved more, but the point is he has been through some eye-opening days. We could really benefit from that as a football team.

In a totally and completely different way — and I’m going to make sure everybody understands it is a completely different way, if you understand what I’m saying. Chad Hennings joined the Dallas Cowboys and he had actually flown in Desert Storm single-pilot jets. Had actually had a crash in single-pilot jets. Chad Hennings had developed a discipline and developed a work ethic that made him a man among boys, and he was a major contributor technically [and] physically but, boy, was he a contributor being an example of work ethic and an appreciation for the job you’ve got.

It’s a shame that all athletes to some degree can’t have some of these life experiences and really have an appreciation for what a great opportunity it is to play in the National Football League. But Josh has had that, I think.

Yes, totally. If your locker room can’t have a war veteran, at least grab someone who’s been to prison. It’s a shame all athletes can’t go to war or prison to help them appreciate what a great opportunity it is to play in the National Football League.

Jerry Jones should not be allowed to speak in public.

Steve Smith Will Take Your Spork

San Francisco 49ers v Baltimore Ravens

This is a perfectly good bit of crazy-ass Steve Smith trash talk right until the end, when he starts talking new-age utensils.

When I look in the defensive meeting room and I see “Play like a Raven,” Baltimore Ravens, “We build bullies.” That’s what I’m talking about. … We take your lunch box. We take your sandwich. We take your juice box. We take your apple sauce. And we take your spork and we break it. And we leave you with an empty lunch. That’s the Baltimore Raven way. That’s the bully way. And that’s football.

That’s it for today. Football is coming. Steve Smith is coming.


Filed Under: NFL, Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns, Blake Bortles, Dez Bryant, Jerry Jones, Steve Smith, Richard Sherman, Sporks, Bradon Meriweather

Andrew Sharp is a staff editor at Grantland.

Archive @ andrewsharp