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Trade talk over, Browns WR Gordon hopes to blossom

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BEREA, Ohio (AP)

Josh Gordon emerged from the other side of the trading deadline exactly where he wanted.

After all the talk, all the rumors, all the ''noise,'' Cleveland is still his NFL home. And now that he's staying with the Browns, Gordon is determined to become an elite wide receiver.

He may be one already.

''I plan on playing like that and practicing like that until I can't do it anymore,'' Gordon said Wednesday. ''That's what I'm striving for, to be one of the best.''

Those words were surely soothing to the Browns' front office, which listened to trade offers for the talented 22-year-old with a troubling track record up until Tuesday's deadline. Cleveland, though, never got a deal suitable enough to deal Gordon, who for weeks seemed destined for somewhere else.

Gordon never wanted to leave, and he's thrilled that he's not going anywhere.

''I'm definitely relieved,'' he said before practice. ''I wanted to stay here. I didn't feel like uprooting myself and moving and starting all over again. I feel as though we have a lot to prove out here and a lot to build on in this offensive program, and I want to say I can at least be one of the guys that helps get it started.''

Gordon hasn't needed long to become arguably Cleveland's best player. He's among the league leaders in several offensive categories, averaging 97 yards receiving per game and 18.2 yards per catch. In five games - he was suspended for the first two for failing the NFL's substance-abuse policy - he has 32 catches for 582 yards and three touchdowns. All eight of his career TDs have been at least 20 yards long.

Gordon is on a path to superstardom, and it would be hard to imagine the Browns' offense without him. No wonder Rob Chudzinski smiled when asked if he, too, was relieved Gordon was still around.

''I'm excited Josh is part of our team,'' Chudzinski said. ''He's here. I like the progress he's made as a player and the strides that he's made and looking forward to continued improvement on his part. We want him here - and he's here.''

Gordon said he doesn't hold any resentment toward the Browns for considering a trade. He understands the business side of football and he's savvy enough to know that no player is untouchable.

Gordon also realizes his off-the-field problems have marked him. His missteps at Baylor and Utah were followed by a failed drug test earlier this year. Gordon flunked because he said he was taking a cough syrup containing codeine, which is on the league's banned list. Gordon's said it's his understanding that another slipup will result in a minimum one-year ban.

So to ensure he stays straight, Gordon said he's changed some off-field habits.

''I tend to just stay to myself a lot more because there are a lot more people out there that recognize who I am now than before,'' he said. ''So, I might not do as much. I feel more relaxed that I can stay at home a lot longer now and stay to myself.''

Still, he hasn't given up occasionally driving around Cleveland in a camouflaged-designed Porsche, an attention-grabbing vehicle the Browns probably prefer that he park permanently.

He's still a kid, but quarterback Jason Campbell has noticed all-around growth in Gordon.

''I see him maturing,'' Campbell said. ''I think a lot of things that happened to him in the past have caused him to really take a hard look in the mirror and see the things that he can really become and not let those things get him in trouble and keep him from being the player he can be.''

Chudzinski, too, has seen a change in Gordon.

''He's grown a lot, and not just as a player but as a person and understanding and maturing on and off the field. He's not perfect. None of us are but I see progress. I see him going in the right direction in all areas and I'm excited about his future and I'm excited about him being here.''

Gordon grasps that he may never escape scrutiny. Every move will be analyzed, and there may be as many people hoping to see him fail as those pulling for him.

That's who he is. That may never change.

''My actions will always have a consequence of what I'm doing, positive or negative,'' he said. ''I've always known that. But it definitely matures you. There's a lot of stuff going on right now - considering the fact you might be traded, and people might feel a certain way about it and think that it's due to something else, due to off-the-field issues or whatever, but it really doesn't faze me.

''As long as I do my job and keep my head level and stay out of the way, I'll be fine.''

NOTES: Chudzinski said newly acquired WR Armanti Edwards will be an option to handle punt returns this week against the Ravens. Edwards was signed Tuesday, a day after the Browns placed speedy WR Travis Benjamin (knee) on injured reserve. ... Edwards played quarterback at Appalachian State and said he's often approached by Ohio State fans, who want to congratulate him for the historic upset of Michigan a few years ago.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Tagged: Browns, Armanti Edwards, Josh Gordon

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