BEREA, Ohio — For two months, suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon has passed Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in the hallway and had the same conversation.
"I always ask him how many days, and he always knows the exact number," Shanahan said.
It's down to just a few.
Gordon's 10-game suspension for repeated violations of the NFL's drug policy is set to end Monday, when the Pro Bowler will be allowed to rejoin his teammates after being exiled since September.
The Browns, who managed to move into first place in the AFC North without Gordon, can't wait to have their troubled, big playmaking star back in the huddle.
"I can't wait to get him back, looking forward to it," said Shanahan, who hasn't been able to devise a game plan that includes Gordon. "I haven't seen him out on the football field since training camp, so we got to see where he's at physically and everything and we'll try to get him in there. And as soon as he's ready to go, we'll make sure to work to get him the ball."
Gordon had a one-year ban reduced to 10 games on Sept. 19 for numerous failed drug tests. The Browns had feared they would be without him all season, but the lessening of his suspension will bring him back just as the club is poised to make a strong run at making the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
The 23-year-old Gordon emerged as one of the league's most dynamic players in 2013.
Despite being suspended for the season's first two games, Gordon, who had substance abuse issues in college, led the league with 1,646 yards receiving, scored nine touchdowns and had consecutive 200-yard games. He became the first Browns player to lead the league in yards receiving and he appeared to be on the brink of superstardom when it was revealed in May that he failed another test for marijuana.
Months of legal entanglement followed and Gordon damaged his chances of getting any leniency when he was arrested on drunken driving charges in North Carolina.
Gordon's legal team unsuccessfully argued to an arbitrator that his failed drug test was the result of secondhand smoke and he was pushed to the sideline, forced to sit and watch for 10 games.
On the brink of his return, his teammates believe Gordon is ready to atone for his missteps.
"His mindset is he wants to come back and do something special in the last six games," safety Donte Whitner said. "I don't know if that's go for 1,000 yards in six games or something like that, but I know he wants to do something special. I know he missed two games last year and went over 1,600, so he can do some special things."
Gordon has only been allowed to work out by himself during the suspension. When the Browns have practiced outdoors, Gordon has been confined to the indoor field house, working with a strength coach and catching passes from a machine.
He's told his teammates he's ready.
"He's just hungry, man, just so hungry and excited to get back out here," said Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden. "J.G., he loves football and he's really, really good at it. He can't wait to get back out here and start playing again."
Haden knows what having a weapon like Gordon can do for Cleveland' offense and to opposing defenses.
"We're super excited," Haden said. "When you have a player of his caliber, man, just to be a deep threat and even if the ball's not going to him, you have to be worried about him. You can't really load up boxes because you can't just put one corner over there with Josh.
"You have to pay more attention to him. So just being able to open up the offense and having a big, deep vertical threat of somebody like him is amazing."
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