Last December, for the fifth time since his career began back in 2012, wide receiver Josh Gordon was suspended by the NFL for violating its substance abuse policy. While there is no telling when his indefinite suspension will come to an end, the 29-year-old has recently applied for reinstatement into the league: he sent an official letter to the NFL asking to be allowed back in last week, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, in hopes of being reinstated in time for training camp in late July.
Gordon, who is currently an unrestricted free agent after last playing for the Seattle Seahawks, has worked out in the city preparing for a potential return.
A former second-round supplemental draft pick, Gordon started his career with the Cleveland Browns and quickly emerged as one of the most intriguing wide receivers in all of football. While he led the NFL with 1,646 receiving yards on 87 catches during his second season, his career took a turn for the worse that year: he missed the first two games of the season due to a suspension in what was a sign of things to come.
All in all, Gordon appeared in only 10 games over the next four years, missing two full seasons (2014 and 2015) due to league suspensions. The Browns held onto him throughout his off-field problems, but eventually cut ties with him in September 2018: the team traded him and a seventh-round draft pick to the New England Patriots in return for a fifth-round selection. The change of scenery initially appeared to be a positive one for Gordon as he quickly established himself as the top wide receiver alongside Julian Edelman.
Just 11 games into his tenure with the team, however, another indefinite suspension was handed down by the league. The Patriots, who went on to win the Super Bowl without him, still decided to bring him back into the fold the following season, though: in August 2019, Gordon was reinstated and quickly resumed his role as a starting wide receiver within New England’s offense — a gig he held until the team decided to place him on their injured reserve list in late October with a minor injury designation.
Due to the designation, the team had to waive him shortly after moving him to IR. Gordon was later claimed by the Seattle Seahawks, for whom he appeared in five games before December’s suspension. He ended the 2019 season with 11 in-game appearances as well as 27 catches for 426 yards and a touchdown.
According to his lawyer, Adam Kenner, this latest suspension for a diluted sample was prompted by a relapse following the death of Gordon’s brother (via Tom Pelissero):
Josh had a lapse because of his brother’s death. That set him back. But since that time, he has realized how important it is for him to take the right steps, do what’s proper and understand how to manage these issues. He’s installed the right team around him to make sure he’s on the right path. He understands he’s been given every chance. He’s looking forward to make the most of this.
While Gordon’s fate is once again in the league’s hands, it seems likely that he will be allowed to return at one point over the next few weeks or months. The question then becomes who will sign the 29-year-old.
Could it be the Patriots? While the team is in dire need of more production out of its offensive skill position players following a disappointing end to the 2019 season, reports coming out of Foxborough following his release make it seem unlikely that the team brings him back on board: the wide receiver was reportedly showing “signs of undependability” that extended beyond the gridiron before New England eventually cut ties with him.
While situations can change on both personal and organizational levels, the Patriots bringing the ultra-talented pass catcher back into the fold appears to be a far-fetched scenario. They did spend one year working with him, after all, but still opted to let him go last October. Gordon will get another shot in the league — talent more often than not finds its way in the NFL — but New England should not be considered a realistic destination for him based on his previous stint with the club.
But no matter where he ends up, the football aspect will be only secondary. What is more important is that Gordon can finally overcome the issues that have haunted him for much of his life.