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Analysis: How Gordon's return could impact Patriots

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – For quarterbacks and wide receivers, timing is paramount. The NFL's decision to reinstate New England’s Josh Gordon Friday evening therefore couldn’t have come at a better time for the Patriots.

The talented, yet often troubled wide receiver had been suspended indefinitely by the league since last December for violating the NFL-NFLPA Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. This, after Gordon had been enjoying a productive first season with the Patriots.

Having come to New England last September in a trade with the Cleveland Browns, Gordon appeared in 11 games last season, catching 40 passes for 720 yards and three touchdowns. However, his season was cut abruptly short when Gordon was found to be in violation of the aforementioned league policy – a problem which had led to Gordon being suspended a number of times before by the NFL.

Now, though, it seems he’ll be given yet another chance to play. From a purely football standpoint, with New England’s wide receiver roster currently plagued by injuries to several players, this news should be welcomed by the club.

Shortly after ESPN’s above report became public, the NFL issued a statement confirming the move, saying that Gordon is eligible to return to the Patriots beginning this Sunday, following the team’s return home from its second preseason game in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans.

Yet, due to the hasty announcement, Gordon will not have sufficient time to be ready for the third game of the preseason, a home contest against the Carolina Panthers next Thursday night at Gillette Stadium. For the time being upon his return, the 28-year-old wide receiver will be allowed “to attend meetings and engage in conditioning work and individual workouts.”

The NFL’s announcement further states that “Subject to appropriate progress on clinical care and other arrangements, [Gordon] will be permitted to participate in team activities including practice” until such time as it is deemed he is in football shape. As a result, it’s unclear exactly when Gordon might next suit up for the Patriots in a game capacity, but his arrival should provide a needed boost to the hard-hit receiving corps.

Already without reigning Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman (left thumb) since training camp opened in late July, the Patriots saw veterans Phillip Dorsett and Maurice Harris sustain injuries that limited them in joint practices with the Titans this week in Nashville. Top 2019 draft choice N’Keal Harry has also been slowed of late due to a medical issue that cropped up last week in the preseason opener versus the Detroit Lions.

Although he’s been prevented from appearing in an official capacity for the Patriots for months now, Gordon spent a portion of this past offseason working out with QB Tom Brady. The team also offered Gordon a restricted free agent tender contract during the offseason, while he was still serving his indefinite suspension, with the presumptive hope that he would eventually be reinstated by the NFL.

Given New England’s inconsistent return on investment with veteran wide receivers in years past, it was pleasantly surprising to many observers last season when Gordon seemed to catch on quickly to the Patriots offense. If he can pick up where he left off last season in terms of that on-field productivity, while keeping himself on the proper path off the field, Gordon could provide some needed depth and assurance to a position that has been one of the Patriots’ biggest uncertainties this summer.

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