Let Ty Law serve up some advice for Josh Gordon.
“Just show up, keep your head down,” Law told USA TODAY on Wednesday, not long after Gordon, the high-profile-but-troubled receiver, finished his first practice with the New England Patriots. “It’s all about a willingness to learn.
“Don’t come in talking with the ego. Pay attention and learn.”
It has been a few minutes since Law, a Hall of Fame finalist this year, was in the heyday of his career as one of the key figures on three Super Bowl-winning teams. But Law knows. Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriot Way remain. The world that Gordon has stepped into for yet another opportunity to live up to his potential is a rigid, no-nonsense culture that will test his dedication.
“He has to understand that for the Patriots to take a chance,” Law said, “you’ll have to conform to the way we do things around here.”
What a break for Gordon, 27, to be traded by the Cleveland Browns on Monday for a fifth-round pick. The Browns are 1-32-1 since the beginning of the 2016 season – and the 32 serves as a double entendre, also representing Cleveland’s rank in the NFL on the hard-luck meter – while the Patriots have been a participant in the past seven AFC Championship Games.
Plus, Gordon gets to join forces with Brady, who has won more Super Bowls than Joe Montana and more MVP awards than Johnny Unitas. When Gordon led the NFL with 1,646 receiving yards in 2013, his quarterbacks were Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden.
Then again, the Patriots sure must be desperate to bring in a player whose track record is littered with off-the-field issues. With Julian Edelman suspended, Brandin Cooks traded and Danny Amendola departed, it’s been a beast trying to find good hands on the outside for Brady.
Gordon has had at least five known cases where he’s entered rehab for substance-abuse treatment, and he missed two complete seasons while being out of action for 43 of a possible 48 games due to league suspensions. Here’s to hoping that he has those issues under control after he missed much of the Browns’ training camp this summer while in rehab. The track record presents a glaring red flag that hardly fits the Patriot Way profile.
Yet Belichick, arguably the most resourceful coach in the NFL and his own general manager, undoubtedly sees potential and desperation. Sure, Gordon, nicknamed “Flash,” has a big-play knack for breaking tackles and can burn you deep or sting you shallow over the middle. He torched New England for seven catches, 151 yards and a touchdown in a 2013 game. And in the opener this season against Pittsburgh, he caught just one pass – a clutch 17-yard snag that he snatched off the helmet of the defender as he tight-roped inside the pylon.
Imagine what possibilities exist alongside the double-teaming of all-pro tight end Rob Gronkowski while Edelman works the middle of the field. Maybe Gordon will become what Randy Moss became as he was rejuvenated in record-setting fashion within the Patriots offense.
Still, when Brady was asked about Gordon on Westwood One this week, he emphasized, “Hopefully, can work hard and put the team first.”
That might be the crux of it for Gordon. Think of his last straw with the Browns. He came to work on Saturday morning, about 10 minutes late, with a hamstring injury suffered while shooting a promotional video at the team’s headquarters on Friday night. Not exactly a team-first move.
On the summer reality series on HBO, “Hard Knocks,” Gordon was seen leaving his playbook in his locker and remarking in so many words that there wasn’t much more he could learn.
That won’t cut it in New England, where, incidentally, there are atomic clocks all around the Patriots’ working environment at Gillette Stadium to synchronize timing.
Also, as Law insists, the Patriot Way still includes players in the locker room – such as Brady, Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater – setting a tone for a culture of accountability.
As Gronkowski put it Wednesday, sounding like Law: “Work hard. Do your job. That explains it all.”
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