BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Suspended Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon's locker is still filled with his belongings, his orange helmet hanging on a hook while he's been kept away from the team.
Perhaps a positive sign?
"We've just got some lazy guys in our equipment room," coach Mike Pettine joked on Friday.
All kidding aside, it appears Gordon, a repeat drug offender who was banned for a year for another failed test for marijuana, will play with the Browns at some point this season.
Friday's vote by player representatives to the union to implement testing for human growth hormone for the 2014 NFL season might have cleared the way for Gordon to have his suspension reduced. The union agreed to significantly increase the threshold for positive marijuana tests, but hours later an NFL spokesman said there were unresolved issues and more negotiating ahead.
Under provisions of the new drug policy the union reps approved, Gordon's suspension likely would be cut to 10 games. The league has not yet announced which of the suspended players could have their penalties reduced.
However, Gordon appears to be on his way back to the Browns.
Gordon's convoluted saga has hung over the Browns for months, making it difficult to move forward and depriving the team of its top playmaker.
Despite being suspended two games, Gordon led the league with 1,646 yards receiving and nine touchdowns last season, when he emerged as one of the game's top big-play threats.
And although there may be a glimmer of hope for the Browns, Pettine remains cautious.
"Just because we've heard everything and seen everything, until we get official word from the league and then start to respond, you don't get your hopes up, it's rumors and innuendo," he said. "I'll believe it when I see it."
The 23-year-old Gordon, who was in an advanced stage of the league's drug program, was suspended for again testing positive for marijuana. Gordon contends he failed the test earlier this year due to secondhand smoke, and his appeal was recently upheld by arbitrator Harold Henderson.
Gordon had practiced and played in limbo during training camp and the preseason. The league announced on Aug. 27 that he would miss all 16 games and his eligibility for reinstatement would be determined after the season.
Now, his situation is on the verge of changing again.
Gordon's case is further complicated by a DUI arrest in North Carolina this summer.
The Browns have remained supportive of Gordon during his ordeal. His teammates would love to have him back for any length of time.
Following practice, Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel said the reports about Gordon have been encouraging, but there are still many unknowns.
"That situation, obviously, is one right now that's kind of in a flux because you don't know," Manziel said. "There's so much talk and so much speculation about 'what if' of what could happen. But at any point in time if we got Josh back you look at the type of caliber player that does nothing, but only make this offense get better and makes us better.
"And I know for him, he wants to be playing football and as us being his teammates we want him back around here. At the same time, it's a delicate situation and one that has a lot of certainty for sure."
Manziel was asked if he's being apprised of the latest developments.
"I think that's way higher than the backup rookie quarterback," he said, smiling.
NOTES: Pettine said Browns Pro Bowl TE Jordan Cameron (shoulder) and LB Barkevious Mingo (shoulder) will be game-time decision for Sunday's home opener against New Orleans. Cameron and Mingo missed their third straight day of practice. Pettine says he does not have a fast rule about playing players who haven't practiced. ... Browns RB Ben Tate spoke for the first time since spraining his right knee against the Steelers. Tate, who wore a brace on his knee, will miss this week's game and suggested he'll miss next week against Baltimore as well. ... Manziel said he's appreciative of the support he's received from LeBron James. The two are business partners — James' marketing company handles some Manziel projects — and the QB values the NBA's star's guidance. "Anytime I've been around him, you want to pick his brain," Manziel said.
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