RENTON — The Seahawks took a relatively low risk on receiver Josh Gordon when they claimed him off waivers Nov. 1, picking up the remainder of his one-year contract.
But given Gordon’s extensive history of substance abuse issues in college and in an NFL career that dates to 2012, the Seahawks always knew there was a chance they’d get a call that Gordon had again run afoul of the league’s rules.
Such a call came Monday afternoon with the league informing the Seahawks that Gordon had violated NFL policies for using both performance-enhancing substances and substances of abuse.
Gordon, 28, was suspended indefinitely by the league and can no longer have contact with the Seahawks, for whom he played five games, making seven catches for 139 yards and no touchdowns.
This is Gordon’s eighth suspension in his NFL career — seven by the league and another by Gordon’s first team, the Cleveland Browns — including missing all of the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
“Our heart goes out to Josh having to face this again and the thought that he is up against it,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said during his regular Monday news conference. “It poses a great challenge to him. … We will wish him the very best in taking care of business. It’s very unfortunate.”
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Gordon has electric talent, as evidenced by being named a first team All-Pro in 2013, and seen in brief flashes during his time with the Seahawks, notably a 58-yard diving reception in the second quarter of Sunday’s game at Carolina that set up a touchdown in Seattle’s eventual 30-24 win.
Carroll called that play later “as good a catch as you could ever see.”
His past also meant few teams wanted to take a chance on him after the Patriots waived him Oct. 31. Seattle, which had the 28th spot in the waiver order, was the only team to place a claim on him.
Carroll said he hoped the team’s environment would prove a good fit for Gordon, and in the several times Gordon talked to Seattle media he raved about the culture and said he felt he’d finally found a home.
He talked to a group of Seattle reporters for about 10 minutes last Wednesday and said he hoped the team would re-sign him after this season.
“I think I’m just fortunate in general to have landed at a place like this with coaches like this,” he said. ” … From the top down, the guys, it’s a real family, like it’s real close, real tight knit. You can see it. It’s a great feeling to kind of come back to football and enjoy what you do and be able to have fun. So it’s a blessing.”
Asked then if he hoped to be back in Seattle next year, Gordon said: “Absolutely. Absolutely. 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.”
Carroll said Gordon showed a good work ethic during his six weeks with the team and that the team saw no signs of a relapse.
“We saw Josh really at a really high level the whole time he was here,” Carroll said. “The work ethic he brought was one, but he was getting along with people and being good to work with and to talk to and all that, and to deal with on regular basis, really, he was great. We were not aware that there was anything to be concerned about other than the history, which we knew about.”
Carroll said he couldn’t go into detail about the specific drugs Gordon was using, but it was confirmed that both performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) and substances of abuse were involved.
Carroll said the Seahawks did not find out until after Carroll held meetings with the players Monday morning. He said he had talked with Gordon only via text message. ESPN reported that Gordon knew the suspension might be coming before Sunday’s game at Carolina, in which he also threw an interception on a gadget play on a deep pass intended for DK Metcalf.
The Seahawks picked up the rest of his contract he had signed with the Patriots, which paid him a total of $2.025 million. That means Gordon made $714,705 for his six weeks with Seattle (five games and the bye week).
The suspension opens up a spot on Seattle’s 53-man roster, but the Seahawks may not have to use it on a receiver. Seattle has six receivers remaining on its roster — Tyler Lockett, Metcalf, David Moore, Jaron Brown, Malik Turner and John Ursua — all of whom are healthy.
“We’re in good shape right now at the position,” Carroll said. “I love the position group.”
Seattle claimed Gordon hoping he could beef up the team’s No. 3 receiver spot and add another potential game-breaking option to go along with leading receivers Lockett and Metcalf.
He had at least one catch in every game he played, making two in his first game against the 49ers that each converted first downs on third-down plays. In fact, five of his first six catches converted either a third or fourth down.
He saw his most playing time in the loss to the Rams a week ago Sunday, on the field for 37 snaps.
That playing time fell to 25 snaps against the Panthers, though that remained third among receivers behind Lockett and Metcalf.
But Carroll said he didn’t really want to focus on the football aspects of Gordon’s suspension.
“I don’t even look at it like that,” Carroll said. “He had impact to some extent, it seemed like, in every game. But this isn’t about that. This is about Josh getting well and taking care of business.”
Gordon began his college career at Baylor. While there, he was arrested in October 2010 for possession of marijuana. Baylor suspended him indefinitely after he had reportedly failed a drug test.
He transferred to Utah but never played for the Utes. He was dismissed from Utah’s program after failing another drug test.
The Cleveland Browns selected him in the second round of the NFL’s 2012 supplemental draft.
He was arrested in July 2014 for driving while impaired in North Carolina and then spent 2015 and 2016 out of the NFL while serving multiple suspensions for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.
In an October 2017 interview with Uninterrupted — a media company founded by LeBron James and James’ business partner, Maverick Carter — Gordon said that a coach at Baylor helped him cheat drug tests by taking “bottles of detox.”
“I’ve been enabled most of my life, honestly,” Gordon said. “I’ve been enabled by coaches, teachers, professors — everybody pretty much gave me a second chance just because of my ability.”