He's been an integral part of the New England Patriots offense since heading East from Cleveland. But now as the team enters their final push for the playoffs, Josh Gordon says he's stepping away from football to focus on his mental health.
The wide receiver posted on his Twitter page Thursday: "I take my mental health very seriously at this point to ensure I remain able to perform at the highest level. I have recently felt like I could have a better grasp on things mentally. With that said, I will be stepping away from the football field for a bit to focus on my mental health. I would like to thank Coach Belichick, Mr. Kraft, as well as countless others within the Patriots organization for their continued support. I want to thank my fans for their support as well as I continue down the path getting back to 100%."
Gordon has had a history of substance abuse problems, suspended by the NFL for two games in 2013, 10 games in 2014, and the entire 2015 season. In 2016 he sought professional help, releasing a statement through the Cleveland Browns, writing: “After careful thought and deep consideration I’ve decided that I need to step away from pursuing my return to the Browns and my football career to enter an in-patient rehabilitation facility. This is the right decision for me and one that I hope will enable me to gain full control of my life and continue on a path to reach my full potential as a person. I appreciate the support of the NFL, NFLPA, the Browns, my teammates, my agent and the community through this extremely challenging process.”
Gordon was conditionally reinstated to the NFL near the end of the 2017 season, playing five games for the Browns. He missed the start of the 2018 season, writing to his fans on Twitter: "I am reaching out to you all personally and letting you know that I am not only doing great physically but mentally as well. You will notice that I will not be in Cleveland for the start of training camp. Rest assured this too is part of my overall health and treatment plan."
In September, the Cleveland Browns traded Gordon to the New England Patriots for a 5th round draft pick. Following his announcement to step away from the game this week, the NFL announced Gordon has once again been suspended indefinitely for violating the terms of his reinstatement under the league's substance abuse policy.
The Patriots released a statement on Twitter about Gordon's departure, writing: "We support Josh Gordon in his continued efforts to focus on his health. His attempt to do so is a private and personal matter, which we intend to respect."
Some of Gordon's teammates echoed that sentiment in the locker room Thursday. "You know, it's a personal situation and that's what it is. I'll let Josh speak for himself on that", said offensive lineman David Andrews. "I wish him all the best, he was a great teammate, and a great guy to me."
Others say they'll be thinking of Gordon and his family during this trying time. "I think for us as players we wish him the best, personally", said defensive back Devin McCourty. "Football comes and goes, we're all going to compete, we're all going to work hard as far as our jobs playing football. We're used to adversity when it comes to just playing football, lose a guy to injury, guy can't play in a game, whatever that is. But, I think life comes before all that, so we wish him the best."
McCourty said Gordon was a great teammate, and worked hard when he was part of the Patriots. Special teams captain Matthew Slater agrees, saying he's "thankful for, you know, the approach he took here, how he was as a teammate. I enjoyed getting to know him in that process, and will continue to support him any way I can and be praying for him. But I think that's of more concern, to be fine, be ok, and that's what we'll be praying for."
Kim Lucey is a freelance journalist with more than a decade of experience in the field. Her career has included coverage of big breaking news events like the Sandy Hook school shooting, lockdown in Watertown, MA following the Boston marathon bombings, and Superstorm Sandy. Her in-depth reports have garnered awards, including a focus on treating mental health issues in children. Currently, she is a reporter at a television station covering the news across the Greater Boston Area with an appreciation for fact-finding and storytelling. Follow Kim on Facebook and Twitter.