Patriots Starter Abruptly Steps Away from Football To Focus on His Mental Health

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It’s been a tough few weeks for the New England Patriots.

With a 17-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, they dropped two straight games in December for the first time since 2002. They scored only three points in the final three quarters of the game, and they allowed a third-string running back, Jaylen Samuels, to look like Le’Veon Bell. Samuels ran roughshod over the Patriots’ defense, gaining 142 yards.

Now, one of New England’s top wide receivers, Josh Gordon, has taken a leave of absence from the team and likely won’t return this season.

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In a statement Thursday on Twitter, Gordon wrote, “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 of 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 (Bill) Belichick, (team owner) Mr. (Robert) 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 a long history of substance abuse problems that have kept him largely out of the league for most of the past four seasons.

He was arrested for DUI in 2014 while with the Cleveland Browns and was suspended after playing just five games. He violated the league’s substance abuse policy and was suspended for the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

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Gordon was reinstated late in 2017 and played five games with the Browns. He returned to start the 2018 season with Cleveland, but he missed training camp to seek counseling for mental health and anxiety issues. He rejoined the team for the start of the season but played in only one game for the Browns.

He was traded to the Patriots after one game for violating team rules.

Gordon, 27, has been a pleasant surprise for the Patriots. He’s caught 40 passes for New England this year for 720 yards and three touchdowns. When you add his one game in Cleveland, his numbers for the season are 41 receptions, 737 yards and four touchdowns.

Gordon’s 720 yards is the highest among New England receivers this year. He trails only Julian Edelman (63) in catches by a Patriots wide receiver.

The Patriots released a statement of support for Gordon.

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“We support Josh Gordon in his continued effort to focus on his health,” the team said. “His attempt to do so is a private and personal matter, which we intend to respect.”

ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported Thursday that Gordon is facing a potential suspension for violating the terms of his conditional reinstatement under the NFL’s drug policy.

Graziano said the league’s punishment has not been decided, but the expectation, according to his sources, is that Gordon will not play again this season.

That leaves the Patriots with a depleted receiving corps beyond Edelman. Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson will be called upon to fill the void.

The Patriots host an improving Buffalo Bills team on Sunday. The Bills (5-9) have won three of their last five.

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Dave is a lifelong sports fan who has been writing for The Wildcard since 2017. He has been a writer for more than 20 years for a variety of publications.
Dave has been writing about sports for The Wildcard since 2017. He's been a reporter and editor for over 20 years, covering everything from sports to financial news. In addition to writing for The Wildcard, Dave has covered mutual funds for Pensions and Investments, meetings and conventions, money market funds, personal finance, associations, and he currently covers financial regulations and the energy sector for Macallan Communications. He has won awards for both news and sports reporting.
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