By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Joining the Patriots midseason as a wide receiver is a difficult challenge for anybody, let alone somebody who’s missed as much football over the past five years as Josh Gordon.
So when the 27-year-old receiver suited up for the first time as a member of the Patriots on Sunday, nobody quite knew what to expect out of him. He ended up taking 18 snaps (out of a possible 81) and notably contributed on three plays. Two of those plays came when he made third-down catches to keep the Patriots’ offense on the field, and another came when he held his block to help spring James White for a 22-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
And in what may have been the most positive sign, Gordon was greeted with a congratulatory headbutt from Tom Brady after his second catch, which Gordon made and then broke a tackle to turn it into a 19-yard gain. After the 38-7 victory, Gordon expressed confidence that his connection with Brady would be one that can grow.
“I mean, it’s awesome, just period, catching a pass from Tom at any point in time,” Gordon said. “He’s been rooting for me, and it’s been awesome to have his support and his love, as well as the rest of the teammates and staff here. You know, Tom’s a passionate guy and I love that, and I love the game of football and I think we’re going to mesh just fine.”
Brady seemed to appreciate seeing the 6-foot-3, 225-pound wideout lined up on the outside.
“He’s put in a lot of work, a lot of time trying to understand where to line up and what to do, and he came up with some big plays today,” Brady said of his newest receiver. “He kind of got us going in certain areas. Everyone played pretty good who was out there today, so it was great to have him out there.”
Gordon’s history is, of course, well known. After an otherworldly 2013 season, he’s now played in just 12 out of a possible 68 games due to various suspensions for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, and due to time spent in a rehabilitation program. That past has put his future in doubt a number of times, and his opportunity with the Patriots may be his best chance to regain stability in his professional life.
“I have no doubt I’m going to take advantage of this opportunity,” Gordon said. “I’m more than blessed. I’m extremely grateful to be put in this scenario. I think the only thing right for me to do is take full advantage of it. I’m loving it, I’m enjoying it, the guys here are great, it’s a real home environment and I feel as comfortable as ever here. It’s awesome.”
The stats — two catches for 32 yards — obviously aren’t eye-popping. But the Patriots don’t necessarily need Gordon to turn back the clock to 2013 on a weekly basis. Gordon doesn’t need that, either.
What both parties would benefit most from would be for Gordon to serve as a reliable contributor who can run the right routes, play his role properly, and gain the trust of his quarterback. Step one in that endeavor was a positive one.