Earlier today, news broke that New England Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon was taking a leave of absence from football and was facing an indefinite suspension for violating the terms of his previous reinstatement. Since then, the 27-year old has indeed been placed on the NFL’s reserve/suspended list with the hope being that his time away from the game will help him overcome the mental health issues that have followed him for years.
The news came as a surprise to many inside the organization, including Gordon’s teammates. “The way you guys felt when you read it was the way most of us probably felt,” said team captain Devin McCourty in the Patriots’ locker room today just a few hours after the story first broke. McCourty, a nine-year veteran, went on to praise the wide receiver who joined New England via trade in late September.
“We all care for him, he was a great teammate and worked his butt off,” he continued. “I think for us as players we wish him the best personally [...] and care about that more than wins and losses.” Fellow defensive back Stephon Gilmore echoed McCourty’s remarks on the short-time Patriot. “Great teammate, great guy,” the Pro Bowler said about Gordon. “Just try to pray and hope for the best for him.”
Offensive lineman David Andrews, a team captain like McCourty, pointed out that the matter is a personal one but that he still hopes for the best. “I wish him all the best,” Andrews told reporters. “He was a great teammate and a great guy to me.” The Patriots’ center was among a smaller group of players to address the media today — but one whose voices carry plenty of weight as team captains and/or established veterans.
One of the men to share his thoughts on the Gordon news was special teams captain Matthew Slater. “ First and foremost, our prayers are with Josh and our concern is with him and what he is dealing with,” Slater said. “I think we have a tendency to become so infatuated with what’s going on on the football field, as players as media members, that we lose sight of what’s going on with the man sometimes.”
“Our number one concern is with him as a man,” the 33-year old, who is one of the most respected players in all of the NFL, continued. “[I am] thankful for the approach he took here, how he was as a teammate. I enjoyed getting to know him in that process and will continue to support him any way I can and be praying for him. The number one concern is you want to see him be fine, be okay and that’s what we’re praying for.”
The Patriots’ locker room did not just express his support for Gordon, though, but also shared a message of moving on to the next challenge — one that comes in the form of the division rival Buffalo Bills on Sunday. “Whatever happens, happens,” defensive edge Trey Flowers said about having to play without Gordon. “[It’s] next man up, so if you lose a guy to anything personal you’ve got to do the same thing.”
“Football comes and goes,” added McCourty. “We’re all going to compete. We’re all going to work hard as far as our jobs playing football. We’re used to adversity when it comes to just playing football.” The 2018 Patriots in particular have experienced plenty of adversity when it comes to the game on the field and what is happening off it. But McCourty knows that one carries more weight than the other: “Life comes before that.”