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Josh Gordon returns to Browns practice, reportedly has plans to ‘tear this league up’

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There was an unfamiliar yet welcome sight at practice for the Cleveland Browns on Wednesday: Josh Gordon, in uniform, working out with his teammates. It’s the first time Gordon has practiced with the Browns since training camp after being suspended for the season’s first ten games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Gordon was reinstated by the NFL on Monday.

NFL Network’s Nate Burleson reported on some pretty bold comments Gordon made to him recently regarding the big plans he has in store upon his return.

“He told me: ‘Starting on practice this Wednesday, I’m going to outwork everybody on the field,'” Burleson said Tuesday on “NFL Total Access,” per NFL.com. “(He said) ‘I’m going to try to evoke a pride in Cleveland that can hopefully lead us to the playoffs.’ He’s excited about coming back.”

Burleson also mentioned a conversation he had with Gordon during training camp about how the wide receiver already was eager to make his return to the field all the way back in August.

“He said, ‘I plan to lose 10 to 15 pounds and when I come back I’m going to tear this league up,'” Burleson said.

Browns head coach Mike Pettine seemed to confirm Gordon’s hunger to get back in the game after talking to the wideout ahead of Wednesday’s practice.

“I can speak on the eagerness,” said Pettine, per a Cleveland.com report. “He’s ready to go and I can tell he’s very excited to be out there.”

Gordon reportedly caught passes for about 15 minutes during the practice session open to the media. While Gordon’s enthusiasm may be evident, Pettine stressed that he doesn’t quite believe the wide receiver is in game shape just yet.

“I think the answer would have to be, no, at this point from not having played,” Pettine said when asked about whether or not Gordon is in football shape. “There’s only so much you can do. You can’t simulate contact or the rigors of playing in the game physically. Being in shape and being in football shape are two different things and that’s what we have the plan where we’ll progress throughout the week and try to ramp him up to try and get him where we need him to be.”

Gordon interestingly worked at a car dealership while serving his suspension, but he nevertheless had plenty of time to keep himself in good shape. As Pettine noted, being in good shape is not football shape, so it will remain to be seen just how much Gordon gets in Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons. Pettine says the team intends to keep Gordon “on a pitch count” and that there “needs to be a progression through the week.”

“The trap to fall into is, ‘Hey, he’s back and let’s just go ahead and throw him out there for a bunch of plays,” Pettine added. “There’s certainly danger inherent in doing that and we have to be smart with how we do it and have a plan to progress through the week.”

Given that Gordon hasn’t been involved in football-related activities — at least with the Browns — in ten weeks, along with the fact that the Browns are operating in an entirely different offense than last season when Gordon led the NFL with 1,646 receiving yards, some patience will be paramount as the team works him into the offense.

Pettine cautioned about expecting too much from Gordon too soon, primarily due to his unfamiliarity with the offense.

“He’s familiar with the terminology and the plays and he gets it, but it’s one thing to look at it and then to process it, whether it’s in a no-huddle situation or breaking the huddle and doing it that quickly and recognizing defenses,” he said. “A lot of it comes back in time, but it just doesn’t … it’s not there instantly. It’s a lot of information and we’re aware of that and we’ll plan accordingly.”

But to hear it from Gordon himself, whether or not he’s held back or not, whether or not he’s not up to speed with the new offense, it does not matter. As he sees it, whenever he is on the field, he has every intent to “tear this league up.” And at this point, given his pedigree and what he’s accomplished in his short career, there’s no reason not to doubt him.