In the latest hit absorbed by the Cleveland Browns during a rocky season, trouble-prone wide receiver Josh Gordon was suspended for violating team rules in advance of Sunday's regular season finale against the Ravens.
Gordon was suspended for skipping practice Saturday, according to league sources.
Although supremely talented physically, Gordon has a lengthy history of off-field problems. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound 2013 Pro Bowl selection served a 10-game suspension this season after he tested positive for marijuana, violating the NFL substance-abuse policy. He served a two-game suspension last year after testing positive for codeine.
There's a financial twist to Gordon's punishment, too, and it will likely cost him millions of dollars.
Browns management saw the suspension, at least in part, as an opportunity to prevent the wide receiver from becoming an unrestricted free agent following the 2015 season, according to sources with knowledge of the Browns' thinking.
A player must be active a minimum of six games in a season to accrue a full season of NFL service time. Gordon was only active for five games this season, so he will not receive credit for a full season and will become a restricted free agent after the 2015 season instead of an unrestricted free agent.
Per a source, Browns general manager Ray Farmer didn't want Gordon to play in a game earlier this season and was upset that he did play, the idea being Gordon wouldn't accrue the six games required under the NFL collective bargaining agreement.
Gordon is contemplating an appeal or grievance through the NFL Players Association, according to a source.
The Browns have thought about trading Gordon in the past, including a proposed deal last year to send him to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for a second-round NFL draft pick and a starting player, but owner Jimmy Haslam nixed the potential deal.
The Browns were already shorthanded on offense Sunday, with veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer unable to go because of shoulder and biceps injuries. Undrafted rookie quarterback Connor Shaw will start.
Now, the Browns will be without their most dangerous offensive weapon in Gordon. Gordon hasn't excelled since returning from a suspension, catching 24 passes for 303 yards and no touchdowns in five starts this season.
When he's on the field, Gordon is one of the most talented players in the NFL. However, his off-field conduct has hampered his progress as a player.
Gordon was charged with driving under the influence this year in North Carolina. He had several failed drug tests in college at Baylor and Utah.
The Browns promoted Phil Bates from the practice squad to the active roster and placed Gordon on the reserve-suspended list.
The Browns' plan for Sunday is to play several young players to evaluate whether they can help the team next season, according to a source.
Bengals' Eifert will remain sidelined
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert won't play any more football this season.
That's not because of the dislocated right elbow he suffered in the season-opener against the Ravens. It's due to a left shoulder injury that required surgery recently, according to coach Marvin Lewis.
Eifert was initially expected to rejoin the team when he was placed on injured reserve-designated to return, but those plans changed due to the shoulder problem.
Eifert is one of the top young players in the AFC North, an extremely gifted former Notre Dame standout who combines size, speed and sound hands.
"It's been unfortunate for him, but this was the best way for him," Lewis told Cincinnati reporters. "The elbow took longer. Because you have the shoulder and the elbow, the strength to play NFL football was moving away fast."
Super season for Antonio Brown
It's already been a stellar year for Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown — one of the best years for a slot receiver in NFL history.
Leading the NFL with 122 catches for 1,570 yards and a dozen touchdowns, Brown is tied for fourth-most in NFL history. He needs two catches Sunday to move up to second; Herman Moore and Wes Welker are tied with 123 catches.