CLEVELAND >> Josh Gordon will end his troubled season just as it began — suspended.
The Browns’ enigmatic wide receiver was suspended Saturday for violating an unspecified team rule and will miss the finale in Baltimore. Gordon, who led the NFL in yards receiving last season, served a 10-game suspension for repeated drug violations earlier this year. It was not immediately known what Gordon did to warrant the suspension from the club.
Gordon was late getting onto the practice field Friday, and he emerged from the team’s facility for the outdoor workout wearing teammate Travis Benjamin’s jersey. The Browns traveled to Maryland on Saturday.
Gordon amassed 1,646 yards receiving last season despite being suspended for the first two games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He claimed he failed the drug test for a codeine-laced prescription cough medicine.
Since returning from his league ban this year, Gordon had caught 24 passes for 303 yards. But he also ran the wrong pass routes for former starter Brian Hoyer, who was benched in favor of rookie Johnny Manziel. Coach Mike Pettine said Gordon needed to work harder on some plays, and the former Pro Bowler was less accessible to the media.
The Browns (7-8) have lost four straight and will start rookie quarterback Connor Shaw on Sunday against the Ravens, who can still earn a playoff spot. Shaw was elevated from the practice squad Saturday. He will be Cleveland’s 22nd starting quarterback since 1999.
When he returned from his suspension earlier this season, the 23-year-old Gordon talked about wanting to make things up to the teammates who stood by him. He caught eight passes for 120 yards on Nov. 23 in his first game back against Atlanta and followed that up with seven catches for 75 yards in a loss at Buffalo.
But Gordon, whose drug suspension this year was for marijuana, has caught just nine passes in the past three games, and he has no touchdowns after scoring nine last season.
After he returned last month, Gordon said he was committed to helping the Browns win.
“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.”
He hasn’t lived up to his promise.
And now the Browns may have reached a breaking point with him. They provided support for Gordon during his suspension and were hopeful that he would mature and fulfill his potential.
Because he didn’t reach six games, Gordon will not be able to count this season toward free agency. He won’t be eligible for unrestricted free agency when his current contract runs out after the 2015 season.
The Browns considered trading Gordon before the deadline last year but didn’t want to give up on him for anything less than a first-round draft pick.
The team filled Gordon’s roster spot by promoting receiver Phil Bates from the practice squad.