Well, I figured that there was a chance that this day would come, but it’s still a punch to the stomach.
Josh Gordon announced that he will be leaving the Patriots to focus on his mental health, and it was subsequently reported that he’s also facing another indefinite suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Based on his history of substance abuse and his lengthy suspension history, it wouldn't be surprising if Josh Gordon has played his last ever NFL game.
Although this situation goes well beyond football, I still have to address the implications that it has on the Patriots for the remainder of this season.
Obviously, this is a huge blow to a team with Super Bowl aspirations. Gordon is the best receiver on this team and was leading the team in receiving despite being acquired part way through the season. Without Gordon’s presence, it will allow teams to focus even more heavily on Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. If you thought these guys were having trouble getting open before, just wait until you see the coverages that defences play sans Gordon. Luckily for the Patriots they still have an abundance of offensive weapons. Edelman has been playing well, despite some drops. Chris Hogan, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Phillip Dorsett will all see increases in their workloads. You can definitely expect more usage of their three-headed backfield: Sony Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead. All while Rob Gronkowski is still there. Obviously, Gronk hasn't looked like his regular self, but he at least showed in the Miami game last week that he can still take over a football game at any moment. Despite all of these players, losing Gordon is tough, but this team is well equipped moving forward.
In terms of Gordon's future with the Patriots organization, it all depends on whether or not he's suspended and how long the suspension is. The Patriots have already released a statement in support of Gordon, but that's for him taking a break to focus on his mental health. If this is just a situation where he's taking some time off to work on some things, then I think he eventually returns as a Patriot. But if he receives a suspension, the team will most likely cut him. The trade for Gordon itself was a calculated risk that the Patriots took when they sent a fifth-round pick for Gordon and a seventh-round pick earlier this year, and as of right now, they got a decent return on investment (40 catches, 720 yards, 3 touchdowns), but it could've been so much more.
This also brings into light just how ridiculous the NFL substance abuse policy is. These are the rules, and it seems like Gordon broke them. Fine. But the fact that players are still being suspended for marijuana use is insane. These players are taking an incredible amount of punishment, but they aren't allowed to smoke something on their own time that may help relieve the pain. The league is fine with training staffs giving players a bunch of pills to deal with pain and injuries, but smoking a plant is off limits. Figure it out, NFL.
Now onto the important aspect of this situation.
Josh Gordon is an addict. You can spend all the time in the world bringing up scientific evidence saying that marijuana isn't addictive. But, the fact of the matter is, Gordon is addicted to marijuana. This is a man who has all the talent in the world, and yet, he has been repeatedly suspended for the use of marijuana. He has also gone into detail on how he abused alcohol and would drink before most of the games he played in. You're undoubtedly going to have talking heads yelling "STAY OFF THE WEED", as they try to fix Gordon's problems. But this goes much deeper than that. Gordon is a 27-year-old man who has spent the better part of his adult life facing addiction issues, being punished for those issues and trying to rehabilitate himself. This isn't a problem that is fixed overnight or fixed because he has a stall next to Tom Brady in the locker room. This is something that Gordon will be battling every day for the rest of his life.
Also, mental health is no joking matter. The vast majority of people have mental health issues or know somebody who does. Gordon has taken leaves of absences before to address these issues, yet it seems like his demons are still very much present. At this point, he feels that he's in a bad place and wants to take a break from the Patriots. Nobody should have a problem with that. I don't know what he's going through, you don't know what he's going through, his loved ones may not even know the full details of what he's going through. At this moment, his mental well-being is the only thing that should matter to him. If a break from football can help with that, it's something that must be done.
This is a good reminder to look around at the people you love and ask questions. Not everybody with mental health issues is going to volunteer that information to you. Just because a person has a smile on their face, it doesn't mean that they are happy inside. Gordon seemed as happy as ever since arriving in New England, but look at where we are now. Even though his career may seem like a missed opportunity or an overall waste of talent, if him being public about his issues can help just one person deal with theirs, then it's a successful career/life.
In the end, this isn't about football. Would it have been nice for Gordon to stay healthy and help the Patriots get Super Bowl number six? Sure. But this is a human who has a full life ahead of him and has every right and obligation to make sure that he is happy and healthy in life, regardless of what happens on a field.