The New England Patriots received the best possible news of their offseason Friday when the NFL conditionally reinstated wide receiver Josh Gordon.
That might be the first word that comes from the mouths of many Patriots fans on Friday. Just 24 hours away from their second preseason game – and 23 days away from their regular season opener – the defending world champions received some unexpected good news.
Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, issued a league statement effectively ending Josh Gordon’s previously-indefinite suspension and reinstating him back onto the Patriots roster, per NFL.com.
“We are all rooting for Josh to succeed, both personally and professionally,” Goodell said in the statement. “Everyone shares in that hope and will continue to support him to every extent possible. But as Josh acknowledged, ultimately his success is up to him.”
Gordon isn’t eligible to play Saturday night’s game against the Tennessee Titans, but he can return to practice and meetings with his teammates as soon as Sunday.
The mercurial wide receiver had officially filed for reinstatement earlier in the month, with news circuits reporting that the ruling on his reinstatement case would be at the sole discretion of Goodell himself. While the commissioner never gave a timetable for his decision, New England fans were at least hopeful that he’d make up his mind one way or the other before the regular season began.
This decision comes at an ideal time for the Patriots, who are sorely thin at receiver currently.
No. 1 option Julian Edelman remains sidelined with a non-football injury to his thumb, and experienced starters Demaryius Thomas and Cameron Meredith remain on the PUP list as they continue their recoveries from prior serious injuries. Complicating matters further have been recent injuries to Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris, and N’Keal Harry, all of whom missed time during New England’s joint practices with Tennessee.
As things stand, the only healthy receivers who might get to see action on Saturday night are Braxton Berrios, Jakobi Meyers, Dontrelle Inman, Ryan Davis, Damoun Patterson, and Gunner Olszewski.
None of that matters as critically now as it did Friday morning though; not with one of the premier receivers in the NFL set to make his triumphant return.
Gordon was leading the Patriots in receiving yards last season before he stepped away from football to focus on his own mental health in December. That same day, the story broke that he was facing an indefinite suspension for once again violating the league’s substance abuse policies.
Gordon’s return is a joyous bit of good news on two levels. First and foremost, it signals that Gordon has received the help and care he needed to make a recovery and combat some of the demons that have plagued him throughout his life. Secondly, it means the New England wide receiver corps is once again a force to be reckoned with – and just in the nick of time, too.