On May 9th of this year, the day after the Cleveland Browns landed CB Justin Gilbert, QB Johnny Manziel and a future 1st Round pick from the Bills next season, we learned that Pro Bowl WR Josh Gordon was facing a likely season long suspension. The Browns did not sign a WR and still have only signed Miles Austin. They must have known something. Gordon allegedly tested positive for marijuana and combined with him already being in Stage III of the league’s Substance Abuse Policy; he was facing the full wrath of the commissioner’s force. Or so we thought. In a time travel sort of way, Ray Rice had unknowingly given Gordon just what he needed to potentially avoid his fate.
Back in February, Ravens RB Ray Rice had a bad night in Atlantic City with his then fiance, now wife. It ends with a domestic violence charge and Ray Rice looking like the scum of the earth. Fast forward five months and Ray Rice is inexplicably handed merely a two-game suspension. The outcry over the short length of the suspension has been strong and come from just about every direction. A two-week suspension for a violent act against a woman is laughable. The Ravens can prop Ray Rice up as much as they want as an upstanding citizen, friend to the community and a man who has seen the err in his ways, but it does not change the fact that the punishment does not fit the crime.
Circle back to Josh Gordon. Compared to Ray Rice, he looks like a saint. He just hangs around with the wrong type of people. He was with people smoking, not actually smoking. The sample had something wrong with it and one was clean and the other one was not. All of these variances will show up in Gordon’s appeal, and they all look much better to the public than Ray Rice dragging his girl’s unconscious body out of an elevator. Public opinion will easily sway Josh’s way. Gordon just looks like the knucklehead kid who needs to get his act cleaned up. He does not deserve a full season suspension for something so trivial. Ray Rice is the real monster here. Essentially, Josh Gordon looks great because of how awful Ray Rice looks.
The NFL is not keen on bad publicity. Ray Rice has been just that for the majority of the last five months and when given an opportunity to fix it with a strong response, the commissioner’s office missed the mark by a mile. It cannot afford another backlash by upholding Gordon’s yearlong banishment. It cannot send the message that beating your wife is okay but smoking weed is eight times worse than it. Would it shock me if the league upholds Gordon’s suspension? Absolutely not. If there is one thing Commissioner Roger Goodell knows is that the people want football. Once there are games being played again, stats to track and records to keep, the fans tend to let these other stories fall to the wayside. He would only need to weather the storm for a few weeks before football heads (like me) concentrate on the on field product.
There is an opportunity here for the NFL to gain back some of the public’s good graces. I am not entirely sure they will seize it, but if they do, Ray Rice will have used his uppercut to knock Josh Gordon’s problems out. Oh and Janay Palmer, he knocked her out too, but the NFL does not seem to think that is an important issue.
Michael A. Roland is an NFL writer for TPF and can be contacted atMRoland@ThePenaltyFlagBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter @mroland14