Coach Mike Pettine said Sunday that Gordon did not play in the Browns' previous exhibition game because the team is preparing to be without the All-Pro wide receiver for at least part of the season.
Gordon is waiting to hear from the NFL regarding his appeal of a possible yearlong suspension for again violating the league's substance-abuse program. He has been practicing and playing for weeks amid uncertainty about his career.
"Knowing that the decision is looming -- that we're fairly certain that were not going to have him for a minimum of some part of the year -- we wanted to make sure that we were getting repetitions with the guys that are going to be out there early," Pettine said.
The 23-year-old Gordon set the club's single-season franchise record with an NFL-best 1,646 yards receiving last year despite being suspended for the first two games. The breakout performance included one dazzling four-game stretch where had 36 receptions for 774 yards and five touchdowns.
But he has struggled in his preparations for this year, dropping passes during practices and preseason games. He hasn't spoken to reporters for months, and Pettine said his uncertain future is weighing on him.
An unspecified injury also contributed to Gordon being held out for Saturday night's 33-14 loss to St. Louis, Pettine said.
"As the game went on and there was the opportunity for him to get in there, with just the minor injury that he had, he wasn't loose," Pettine said. "I consulted with (wide receivers) coach (Mike) McDaniel and at that point we just didn't feel comfortable putting him in. It wasn't anything from a punishment standpoint or anything like that. It was just common sense."