August 15, 2016 07:22 PM
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — After he was suspended from the NFL for a year, Josh Gordon didn't know if he'd ever take the practice field for the Cleveland Browns again.
On Monday, Gordon put on his pads beneath a brown No. 12 uniform for the first time in nearly two years, following his activation from the non-football injury list.
"I missed it, being back here," Gordon said. "I was hoping for the best and I was blessed to get an opportunity to come back."
The last time Gordon practiced for Cleveland was Dec. 26, 2014. Less than two months later, he was suspended indefinitely for multiple violations of the NFL's drug policies.
Even upon reinstatement into the league by Commissioner Roger Goodell on July 25, Gordon wasn't sure if the new Browns regime would want him to be part of the organization.
He was still suspended for the first four regular-season games of 2016 and was bringing plenty of baggage back to the Browns.
As it turns out, the team's front office and new coach Hue Jackson were ready to welcome him with a clean slate.
"I'm grateful to them. I definitely am," Gordon said. "They're not looking at my past and I'm not trying to look back toward that. We're just ready to move forward."
While Gordon was permitted by Goodell to practice with the team during training camp, a quad injury he suffered during individual offseason workouts prevented him from taking the field for the first two weeks of training camp.
Now that he's healed enough to practice, Gordon thinks he can still be the same player that finished with 1,646 receiving yards during a Pro Bowl season in 2013.
"I'm the same guy. I'm definitely the same guy. I'm confident in my abilities," Gordon said. "I definitely am aware of what I can do and I think I can build upon that and do even better."
Starting quarterback Robert Griffin III is well aware of the abilities that Gordon mentioned.
Having played with the receiver at Baylor, Griffin has seen Gordon's skills first-hand and is excited to have the chance to work with him again.
"We had some great games, some great times together and we're looking forward to really building that here in Cleveland," Griffin said. "I know he'll be ready when he steps out there."
Gordon's status for Thursday's exhibition game against the Atlanta Falcons is in the air. With just two days of practice before the game, it's unlikely the receiver will play.
When he does get the opportunity to play in his first game since Dec. 21, 2014, Gordon will appreciate it more than ever.
But in the meantime, he's just happy to be able to practice again.
"I think every day I'm back, it means a lot to me," Gordon said. "This opportunity we have here is like nothing I've felt before or seen before and I really want to be a part of it."
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By HAYDEN GROVE
Updated: August 15, 2016 07:22 PM
(Copyright 2016 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)