By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — This week in New England, the No. 1 story (and the No. 2 story, and the No. 3 story) has been the addition of Josh Gordon. Forget about the loss to the Jaguars, forget about the upcoming game in Detroit. This week has been wall to wall Josh Gordon.
That’s mostly understandable. Gordon is someone who has a prolific receiving season on his résumé, and his battles with addiction combined with his problems with NFL discipline and his curious final days as a member of the Cleveland Browns have all combined to make for a rather interesting story for the Patriots.
At the same time, Josh Gordon is a receiver who has caught 43 passes total over the past five NFL seasons. Despite that inactivity, many in the region immediately made comparisons of this move to the 2007 acquisition of Randy Moss. The 80-yard touchdown he scored vs. the Patriots in 2013 has been played on a loop on every sports station. It has been hard for some people to not temper expectations.
The reality, though, is that until Gordon proves that he can A) show up on time to every meeting and practice, B) grasp the Patriots’ complex playbook, and C) actually perform on Sundays, it would be premature to even compare Josh Gordon to Brandin Cooks — let alone Randy Moss.
And the Patriots — largely considered to be a rather wise operation — have all smartly downplayed any potential hype from building in Foxboro this week.
Bill Belichick set the tone, by refusing to even discuss the player until four days after the trade had been reported and confirmed by both the Patriots and Browns. And the rest of the members of the organization have largely followed suit.
Here’s what Belichick said about Gordon on Friday morning when finally addressing the addition of the player:
BB: We’ll see how it goes. I think Josh is a smart kid. He’s worked hard. He’s picked up a lot.
Q: Just from a raw talent perspective, is Josh a rare type of player that may not often come available on the trade market?
BB: Look, all players in this league are talented players or they wouldn’t be in this league. We’ll see.
Q: Matt Patricia mentioned to us that Josh may still be running from that slant he caught and took for a touchdown in that 2013 game versus Cleveland.
BB: Yeah, it was an impressive play.
Q: Do you feel that Josh is still the same talented player that you saw out on the field that day in 2013?
BB: Yeah, we’ll see.
Not exactly a “Get your popcorn ready” series of comments from the head coach.
Later on Friday, when Tom Brady stepped to that same podium, the quarterback was likewise cautious in overstating expectations for Gordon:
Q: What are your impressions of Josh so far?
TB: [He’s] really been eager to get in there and learn everything we’re doing and, you know, just try to acclimate himself to what the program is.
Q: Have you thrown some balls in practice?
TB: I threw a lot. Yeah, a lot of balls.
Q: To Josh Gordon, in particular?
TB: Oh. Well that’s a different question. So which question do you want to ask?
Q: Have you thrown some balls in practice to Josh Gordon?
TB: Uh, yeah.
Q: How’s he look?
TB: (Shrugs) Like an NFL receiver looks.
Q: How about speed? Everything looks great?
TB: I think we’re working at it. I mean, look, he’s been here for a few days. So we’re working at it every day, and every day you try to make improvements. I mean, we’re out there, everyone who’s out there is working hard trying to practice, doing whatever they need to do to understand the playbook, to understand routes, understand how we do things. So we’re just … trying to work at it.
Earlier in the week, when Belichick’s code of not discussing the Gordon acquisition was still in effect, the commentary was mostly the same.
From offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels:
Q: How would you rate Josh Gordon as a perimeter player?
JM: That’s – it’s hard for me to say that. I know there’s been a lot of conversation about that, I know what Coach said and he referenced that whole thing. So I’d have to – it’s been a while, so we’ll have to see if that develops that way and how it comes along here as we go forward.
From safety Devin McCourty:
Q: What’s your opinion on Josh Gordon and the fact that his locker is right next to Tom Brady’s? What can he bring to this team?
DM: That’s a lot of, “I don’t know’s.” I don’t – he’s only been here for I think two days now so I wouldn’t say I can formulate an opinion on him. But, we all know he’s a good player. Excited to have him here and he seems excited to get to work. We’ll see how it all shakes out.
From tight end Rob Gronkowski:
Q: What’s your reaction to having Josh Gordon on the team?
RG: Yeah, he’s a really good player and it’s good to have him here.
Q: What do you know about him as a player and his style of play?
RG: I know that he’s a good player, but I can’t really get into details. I’ve never really practiced with him like that before seeing him in person play. But, what I’ve seen before, he’s a great player and just definitely glad to have him here.
Q: What’s a guy like him have to do to fit in? Why do some veterans fit in here?
RG: Work hard. Do your job. That explains it all.
Q: Did anything stand out about Josh Gordon in practice today? His size or his speed?
RG: Oh, that is one thing – didn’t really – during practice you know, we’re out there just trying to do our own thing, but from what I’ve seen before, definitely his size with his speed is great. You don’t really see that often.
The message thus far has been pretty clear and almost uniform: great player, we’ll see how it goes. While the rest of the world is free to build up as much or as little hype as possible for the 27-year-old receiver, it’s quite clear that the Patriots are doing what they can from letting any expectations soar out of control before Gordon even suits up for a single game with the team.