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The Curious Case of Josh Gordon: The open letter offers insight, not excuses

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Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Gordon was officially suspended Tuesday for at least a full-calendar year due to failing yet another drug test while in the NFL's notorious "substance abuse" policy. This latest failure became his third in just three seasons at the professional level.

The initial reactions of many were to immediately criticize Gordon for what was without a doubt an incredibly stupid decision.

After it was later learned this most recent positive test was for alcohol, some confusion seeped in, but the criticism surrounding his decision making remained and deservedly so.

Seemingly unabashed to the gross irony, the NFL, which makes countless millions in ad revenue from alcohol-related commercials and sponsorships, banned Josh Gordon from consuming those very same products.

Gordon's increased restrictions, which he himself describes as "just" in his open letter, were in connection to a DWI incident from last summer and part of an agreement he made with the league for his conditional reinstatement in 2014.

Remember, Gordon was suspended indefinitely last year as well, and he even lost his appeal despite details of the case that clearly indicated he hadn't actually smoked marijuana.

Failing a drug test without having used the drug you failed for is commonly referred to a "false positive" and this one was created by the NFL's absolutely absurd marijuana policy. That specific case has been discussed here ad nauseam and it makes no more sense today than it did five months ago.

We, like the NFL, will ignore the fact that alcohol use in this country kills approximately 88,000 people per year, according to the CDC, making it the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Over 10 thousand of those were from drunk driving, which is why no excuses will be made here for the DWI arrest.

But this column is not about micro-managing the personal lives of sports fans, nor athletes, nor anyone else. It's not about advocating for any sort of increase on the regulation of adults' otherwise legal recreational activities.

The NFL's archaic and preposterous policies regarding these substances is self-evident. Of course, it is merely the measurably dangerous of which they profit hundreds of millions peddling. This isn't about that.

This is about the Curious Case of Josh Gordon: The mega-talented multiple-record-breaking Browns receiver that can't seem to stay on the field, the one so many strangers are so quick to psychoanalyze without ever having met the man.

It's hard to blame the Cleveland faithful for losing any or all trust in Gordon. He's certainly given them enough reason for it.

But to take it a step further and assume he's a drug addict whose life hangs in the balance as a result of that addiction – pure conjecture.

These were the accusations Gordon faced on the national level, fed to a huge national audience.

Pundits like Charles BarkleyStephen A. Smith, and Cris Carter, none of which have even as much as shared a handshake with Gordon before berating him over television and radio, used these public forums to share their thoughts about his life.

That's fine. In some instances, that's part of their job.

Similarly, it's just as fine for Gordon to respond to these criticisms, especially when the prior analysis is so completely void of any nuance or examination of the facts available in his case.

Gordon addressed those critics in a public forum of his own, but it shouldn't be ignored that his open letter is directed to specific people: the aforementioned pundits and other like-minded interested readers.

The letter was never about excuses. He didn't make them. It was about explanation, upon which, in fact, Gordon made a note to take responsibility for each of his mistakes, bad decisions.

''I foolishly put myself in a precarious situation, one which I could have easily avoided if I had thought more clearly about the potential ramifications of my actions and who I chose to spend time around.''  - Josh Gordon, open letter, 2015

Many readers responding to Gordon's letter seemed to have skipped the five paragraphs where he thoroughly puts the entirety of the blame for his repeated suspensions on himself.

He apologizes to Cleveland, his teammates, his coaching staff, the ownership, and the fans. Even if the apology largely fell on deaf ears, any breakdown of the letter can't ignore it.

He apologizes to his friends and family. He acknowledges how he's disappointed them and failed himself. He shares this deeply personal, human moment with readers not because he had to, but because he volunteered to.

Trying to explain the details of one's horrible mistakes can always be construed as excuse making, but it's a preface like Gordon provides that offers the context it has to be considered in.

First, words cannot express the remorse and regret I feel over this latest incident. I acknowledge that the repeated transgressions that have led up to this point have damaged my credibility, and for that, the only person to blame is me.

With that clearly stated and stressed, he can then begin to give insights into his life, his background, and the kind of person he is, because he sees the narrative being pushed by the national media appears way off-base.

For those concerned or interested, he can go into even more detail about each of the incidents that led up to all of the suspensions and his current status in the NFL's substance abuse policy. It's then up for the reader to decide whether or not Gordon is a drug addict, whether or not he knows more about himself than a handful of guys that have never met him.

But to decide this letter is just Gordon making excuses for his poor behavior means you probably haven't read it.