With the Rob Gronkowski era officially over, the New England Patriots are in the midst of major change. Even as storied quarterback Tom Brady continues to helm their offense for his upcoming 18th season as a starter, the general vibe around this team is a pointed search for a new way forward.
That context makes it especially hard not to take note that Brady was spotted training hard with indefinitely suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon. Could there be a place for Gordon in the new and improved 2019-2020 Patriots? And, more importantly, is it even possible given the circumstances of Gordon’s latest suspension from the NFL?
Tom Brady gives Josh Gordon the Instagram bump
Brady’s strenuous offseason training routine always involves a who’s who of strong, active players. Brady himself talked about working with Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry. Tellingly, though, when he decided to show off his hard work personally on Instagram, he decided to show off a clean pass to Gordon.
Brady, for his part, gave the press a fairly straightforward line on his training with Josh Gordon: “There wasn’t many opportunities, but he was around, and I needed someone to catch,” Brady said. “I’ve always enjoyed playing with him and obviously hope everything works out for him. I’m hoping the best, certainly.”
Putting it lightly, Brady’s been around the block when it comes to social media and PR. He knows choices like this will be dissected by media and fans. A post like this happens for a reason. The question is, was it a personal vote of confidence for Gordon from Brady’s camp? Or was this Instagram training debut the first move in a wider campaign for Gordon by the Patriots to convince the league to get him back on board?
And does Gordon himself feel ready to return?
Rehab and training pay off
Josh Gordon’s career is notable both for his incredible work at wide receiver and a long run of troubles with substance abuse. Even in the midst of his oft-cited 2013 breakout year, he was suspended for two games. In a sense, that makes his total 1,646 receiving yards that year much more impressive.
Between 2014 and 2018, he was only eligible to play in 11 games for the Cleveland Browns. His on again, off again NFL runs came to a head in 2018, when he violated the terms of his reinstatement and was forced out from the Patriots with an indefinite suspension from the league.
Gordon’s rehab appears to be going well, and reports state that the Patriots are interested in seeing him back on the payroll soon.
Is Josh Gordon eligible to return to the NFL?
During his short time as an active player with the Patriots, Josh Gordon caught Brady’s 500th career touchdown pass. Given Brady’s kind words for his troubled ex-teammate, there’s more to the pairing of these two than that one historic moment. He appears to simply like working with the guy. A vote of confidence from an active elder statesman of the game could be what paves the way for Gordon to return.
The process is now in the hands of the league itself. While Gordon wasn’t able to return in time for training camp as the Patriots organization previously hoped, he has since applied for reinstatement.
With Brady’s vote of confidence, and the public responding positively to the sight of their workouts together, there is a decent chance Gordon will return to the NFL. Fans should also hope that Gordon’s self-care in his time away from professional football has finally reached a point where he can stay in for a full season if his current push for a return pans out.