NEW ORLEANS, La. – Josh Gordon won’t be in on the first play against the Saints — or any other play for that matter.
In a surprise move, Gordon was ruled out of the game with a hamstring injury on Saturday afternoon, just before the Browns left Cleveland.
What’s more, he was left home from the trip.
Gordon, who was not listed on the injury report all week including Friday, arrived at the Browns facility on Saturday morning for the trip complaining about his hamstring, and the medical staff examined him and determined that he couldn’t play.
In the early part of practice open to the media on Friday, Gordon, had his hamstring stretched for a long time by trainers while other players were warming up.
He then joined his fellow receivers and caught passes from the quarterbacks, including a number of them in which he fell to the ground after making the grab just inches inside the end zone.
Gordon, who was listed as a starter on the depth chart this week, is as a big a loss for the Browns as Pro Bowler Michael Thomas would be for the Saints.
In other injury news, starting linebacker Christian Kirksey, who was listed as questionable, was also ruled out with his shoulder and ankle injuries, and tight end Seth DeValve was ruled out with a hamstring. DeValve, who had just worked his way back from a quad injury to play in the opening-day 21-21 tie with the Steelers, was also not listed on the injury report this week.
It marks the first game Kirksey will miss since being drafted in the third round of the 2014 draft, a stretch of 65 straight games.
Gordon returned to the Browns on Aug. 18 after spending an extended period of time in treatment at the University of Florida. He missed a few days of practice with the hamstring injury after he was cleared for all football activity on Aug. 25, but was full-go in the days leading up to the Saints game.
Gordon became a big story in the opener because he was on the field for the first play of the game after coach Hue Jackson adamantly stated he wouldn’t start. The thinking behind it was that the other receivers had been here all along and deserved the opportunity to start the game.
Jackson says Gordon starting was ‘a mistake’ and ‘a miscommunication’
But offensive Todd Haley opted to open with a one-receiver, three tight-end package, and trotted Gordon out there as the lone wideout.
It was a moved that surprised even Gordon, and left Jackson miffed. Gordon was taken out for the rest of that series and the next, before Jackson gave him the okay to go back on the third.
After the game, Jackson acknowledged that he didn’t know it was happening until he saw it, and the next day, he attributed it to “a mistake” and “a miscommunication” between him and Haley. He stressed that the two worked through it and moved on.
Gordon ended up playing 69 of the snaps, or 78% of the game. He was targeted only three times, and caught one pass — the 17-yard TD from Tyrod Taylor that tied the game at 21 with 1:58 left in regulation.
Haley explained on Thursday that Gordon had missed all of training camp and the four preseason games, and that it wasn’t as simple as having him return to Pro Bowl form.
“We have a guy that missed an extended amount of time that was not here practicing,” said Haley. “That slows not only his process but our entire offense’s process. We know that he has a chance to be a big part of what we’re doing. You can’t just snap your fingers and say, ‘Put him here. Put him there. Put him there.’
“Obviously, the defense is going to dictate a lot of times where the ball goes.”
In one of the more bizarre aspects of his interview this week, Gordon indicated he was more of a decoy in the game.
“I think I went out there and served my purpose that I was supposed to do, whether it be distracting the safety to get somebody else open,” Gordon said. “I don’t even think about the targets until somebody mentioned it at the end of the game, but I was just going to keep on running until I got the opportunity.”
So he really was a decoy? The starting X receiver?
“I wouldn’t say that,” he said. “I think it depends on who we’re playing and the uncontrolled variables I mentioned earlier, you got to adjust to it. Going in you might be a part of it, and later on you might take a lesser role.”
He added, “the focus can be exactly that — distracting to a defense if they stay focused on me, allowing Jarvis (Landry) to get open, allowing Rashard (Higgins) to get open, allowing the run game to develop. If that was the case, then I have no issue with it.”
Taylor vowed to try to get Gordon more involved this week.
“We can do a better job of getting him the ball and getting him opportunities to make plays,” he said. “That starts with myself.”
With Gordon out, Antonio Callaway or Higgins will likely start in his place.
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