On Friday afternoon, inboxes across the NFL’s media landscape were filled with news when the following press release came in:
JOSH GORDON TO BE REINSTATED ON CONDITIONAL BASIS
After an indefinite suspension that turned out to be definite after all eight months in, the league allowed wide receiver Josh Gordon to rejoin the New England Patriots and continue his career. While his return comes at a good time for the Patriots, considering that the team’s wide receiver group is currently nursing numerous injuries, the football aspect of the reinstatement takes a backseat to the personal perspective.
After all, Gordon has been undergoing treatment for repeated substance abuse and it now looks like he has reached a critical point that prompted the NFL to agree to his reinstatement just two weeks after it was filed. For his teammates, Gordon’s return is obviously exciting news as well: “I’m glad he’s coming back,” said cornerback Keion Crossen after Saturday’s game against the Tennessee Titans (via MassLive).
Another Patriots defensive back, Duron Harmon, echoed Crossen’s remarks but also touched on how the reinstatement itself goes beyond football: “Obviously we’re excited because we’re pulling for him,” the 28-year-old told ESPN’s Mike Reiss after the game. “We love him. We always want the best for him, more than anything. He’s a part of this team, a brother of ours. We’re looking forward to seeing him on Sunday.”
“Obviously it means he’s doing well. And that’s what we care about most with Josh is how he’s doing as a person, how he is as a man. Football comes secondary. We look forward to supporting him and just taking it one day at a time,” added team captain Matthew Slater when speaking about the 28-year-old wide receiver on Saturday. One of the team’s leaders, Slater opened up more than other players about Gordon’s upcoming return.
“We are excited,” the veteran special teamer continued (via NBC Boston). “I’ll say this: football is number two. We want to see him first and foremost doing well as an individual, doing well as a man, and we want to support him however we can. We’re just going to take this one day at a time, which is all any of us can do. And we’ll see what tomorrow brings and then we’ll let the day after that worry about it when it comes around.”
For Slater, one of the most important points when it comes to Gordon is the support network he has in New England: “I think having support is always a good thing, no matter who you are, no matter what life has brought your way. I think support is good, and hopefully he finds that he has support here. I think that’s really all I can say about it now. What’s good, what’s not good remains to be seen.”
Per the terms of his reinstatement, Gordon can return to the Patriots as early as today — and it seems that the locker room is ready to welcoming him back with open arms, not just as one of the team’s most talented wide receivers but also as a man looking to get his life back on track. The first steps were already taken, the next ones will happen in a familiar environment.