Receiver Josh Gordon was suspended without pay for the first two games next season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, the second year in a row that the Cleveland Browns will be missing a key player because of a drug-related punishment.
Gordon also was fined two additional game checks on Friday. He'll miss games against the Dolphins and defending Super Bowl-champion Ravens, and is eligible to return for a game against the Vikings.
Gordon said in a statement that he used cough medicine containing codeine — a banned substance — while recovering from strep throat in February. The league could have given him a four-game suspension.
"The policy terms are strict about unintentional ingestion, but the NFL has not imposed the maximum punishment in light of the facts of my case," Gordon said. "Therefore, I have chosen to be immediately accountable for the situation. I sincerely apologize for the impact on my team, coaches, and Browns fans."
It's the second year in a row that the Browns have a key player suspended early in the season. Cornerback Joe Haden was suspended four games last season for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. Haden acknowledged taking the stimulant Adderall. The Browns lost their four games without him.
Gordon caught 50 passes as a rookie last season, developing into the Browns' best deep threat. He led the team with 805 yards receiving and five touchdowns.
The Browns selected him in the second round of the supplemental draft, taking a chance on a player who had major problems at Baylor. He was dismissed from the Bears after getting suspended twice for using marijuana. He transferred to Utah but didn't play there after failing another drug test.
Gordon will be able to practice with the team and play in the preseason games.
"Obviously, we are all disappointed in this news," coach Rob Chudzinski said. "In our short time with Josh, he has done everything that we've asked him to do and he has exhibited substantial improvement.
"We believe that he will continue to work diligently through training camp and the preseason. I am confident that others will step up in his absence."