As controversial wide receiver Josh Gordon prepares for his first practice with the Seahawks on Thursday, his new Seattle teammates say they will welcome him with an open mind.
“You look at the history of this organization, you always have different personalities and the locker room always stays intact,” veteran left tackle Duane Brown said after the Seahawks’ victory over Tampa Bay on Sunday. “Guys thrive here and I think he’ll be no exception. We were all very excited when we saw the news.
“So when he gets here, we’ll embrace him. We’ll be here for him in whatever capacity we need to be, but I expect nothing but the best from him.”
The Seahawks were the only team to claim Gordon off waivers last Friday, a day after New England released him off the injured reserve. Gordon had aggravated a knee injury with the Patriots in an Oct. 10 game against the New York Giants.
He passed his physical Saturday and met with coach Pete Carroll for the first time Monday. It’s unclear whether Gordon will be available to play against San Francisco on Monday Night Football, and Carroll has tried to temper immediate expectations of the wide receiver.
Linebacker Bobby Wagner, a team captain, said he is optimistic about how Gordon will fit in with the Seahawks.
“The environment here is very welcoming,” Wagner said. “It’s definitely an environment that allows you to be yourself; it allows you to be the best version of yourself. We’re not trying to have him or anybody in here be anybody but themselves.
“The veteran leadership, the guys who have been here, it’s on us to bring him in and show him the way that we have grown accustomed to.”
Gordon, 28, is joining his third NFL team in 14 months.
A one-time All Pro receiver, he has been suspended five times since 2013 for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, and he has been suspended for more games (61) in his NFL career than he has played (58).
Can that change with the Seahawks, in what might be Gordon’s last chance to stick on an NFL roster?
A long history of substance abuse
Raised in Houston, Gordon was in the seventh grade when he said he smoked marijuana for the first time.
“Truthfully, that’s where it started from for me,” Gordon told GQ magazine in a story published in November 2017. “The anxiety, the fitting in and stuff. Not being comfortable with who I was. Socially, I felt awkward, talking with people, telling them where I was living. Other kids have nicer stuff than you, ‘you’re poor’ type of (stuff). A lot of inadequacy, I think, is the reason why I initially got into it.”
In a 2017 interview with Sports Illustrated, Gordon detailed his troubles in high school: he joined a gang; he sold drugs; he stole cars; he burgled homes; he was once shot in the left arm; he was arrested for credit card theft.
But football was easy. That’s what earned him a scholarship to Baylor University, and that’s what kept one second chance after another coming along. While at Baylor in 2010, Gordon was arrested for marijuana possession after he and a teammate fell asleep in a vehicle while in a Taco Bell drive-through lane. Gordon was suspended from the team; he was suspended again in 2011 for testing positive for marijuana.
In an October 2017 interview with Uninterrupted — a media company founded by LeBron James and James’ business partner, Maverick Carter — Gordon said that a coach at Baylor helped him cheat drug tests by taking “bottles of detox.”
“I’ve been enabled most of my life, honestly,” Gordon said. “I’ve been enabled by coaches, teachers, professors — everybody pretty much gave me a second chance just because of my ability.”
He transferred to Utah but never played for the Utes because he failed a drug test there.
Selected by the Cleveland Browns in the 2012 supplemental draft, he led the NFL with 1,646 yards receiving in 2013, despite missing two games for his first NFL suspension after he tested positive for codeine.
He had a DUI in 2014, earning a 10-game suspension that season.
The NFL suspended him for the entire season in 2015 and 2016 for further violations of the league’s substance abuse policy.
“I got suspended for the entire year and after that it kind of all came in from all angles, different fans, everybody kind of was like ‘Oh, you’re a piece of (expletive), you’re a drug addict, you’re a junkie, whatever, you’re alcoholic,” Gordon told Uninterrupted. “So at that point, I was like, ‘If you all want me to be this guy so bad, that’s just what I’m going to be.'”
Gordon spent time at drug and alcohol rehab programs on four known occasions, according to The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. He had a 90-day stint in a Florida rehab program in the summer of 2017, and that fall he did several tell-all interviews leading up to his formal request for reinstatement with the NFL.
He spoke about his addiction, about fearing for his life, about wanting to “live out my amends” and play again in the NFL.
“I need to try to make right for all my past transgressions and mistakes and show and prove I can be a better person, I can be a better man,” he said. “Somebody who is accountable, reliable because I know what’s on the other side of that. If given the opportunity, I believe I can prove my worth.”
Another new start
Gordon wore jersey No. 12 with the Browns and he has a “12” tattoo covering much of his back. Perhaps he will be a good fit with Russell Wilson and all the 12s in Seattle. (Gordon is listed as No. 10 on the Seahawks roster.)
It didn’t work out for Gordon for long in New England, for a coach in Bill Belichick who has had success with high-profile reclamation projects (think Corey Dillon, Randy Moss, Aqib Talib, to name a few).
In 17 games for the Patriots, Gordon had 60 catches (on 104 targets) for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns.
Reports out of Boston last week suggested Gordon’s “work ethic” was a growing concern for the Patriots. He was late for meetings, according to NBCSportsBoston.com, which apparently hastened his departure there.
That the Seahawks were the only team to put in a waiver claim is telling, despite pleas from fans in Dallas and Philadelphia, and elsewhere, whose teams could use help at receiver.
Peter King wrote this in his Football Morning In America for NBCSports.com: “Seriously you question why teams wouldn’t be flocking to claim this highly problematic player? Suspended five times in an eight-year career for substance abuse … cut by the Browns for ‘violating the team’s trust’ … released by a six-time championship team desperate for wide receiver help … put on the street by Bill Belichick. Common sense, people. Please.”
Carroll also has a history of giving opportunities to players with strong personalities and checkered pasts (think Marshawn Lynch, Percy Harvin, Frank Clark, to name a few). Can he make it work again?
“My dad always said, ‘Always give a guy a second chance,'” Carroll said Monday. “Sometime when you do, remarkable things happen. In my way, I look at this as maybe a second opportunity for him. He’s probably had a couple already. So we’re going to give him a shot to go, see what he can do.”