New England Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon is leaving the game he played all his life for the umpteenth time. Gordon said Thursday that the break was to focus on his mental health but sources tell ESPN that Gordon is facing another suspension for violating the conditional reinstatement terms under the NFL’s drug policy. The belief is that Gordon won’t play again this season.
He may not play again at all.
“I take my mental health very seriously at this point to ensure I remain able to perform at the highest level,” Gordon said in a statement released on Twitter.
“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 don’t think that the break to work on his mental health and the reports that he violated his drug policy are mutually exclusive. While statics show that chronic drug abusers are more likely to suffer from mental health issues, that study doesn’t take into account a drug user’s fame or financial wealth. There isn’t a section that notes how Josh Gordon has the potential to be a stud wide receiver at the highest levels or how he’s been given many chances to work through his reported drug issues.
And make no mistake about it, Gordon has been given several chances. According to ESPN, in 2013 he was suspended for two games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. In 2014, he was suspended for the entire season, which was later reduced to 10 games. In 2015, he was given an indefinite suspension for a substance abuse violation which later turned out to be 20 games. During most of this time, the Cleveland Browns—the team that drafted Gordon—stuck by him after his breakout out rookie season in 2012.
Gordon missed the start of Cleveland Browns training camp this season to seek counseling for mental health and anxiety issues. He rejoined the team three weeks later and played in one game for Cleveland before the Browns decided to move on, trading him to New England for a 2019 fifth-round pick. Gordon, 27, had been suspended by the NFL for most of the previous four seasons because of multiple drug violations, and the Browns were supportive of him for years as he tried to turn things around.
New England was supposed to be a fresh start and sadly, it might be the tragic end to a career that could never get out of the starting blocks. In the coming days and possibly weeks, the story of whether or not Gordon is, in fact, facing a drug suspension will unfold. If the story is true then it only proves, like most people who struggle with chronic addiction, that drug addiction is a powerful vampire that drains the lifeblood out of everything it sees.
I don’t think the correct action is to condemn Gordon for possibly ruining another chance at playing football, although I understand it. I understand the immediate gut reaction to Monday morning quarterback; the “fuck this rich guy” anthem we all sing when people with money don’t take advantage of their gifts.
Maybe you’ve never been glamoured by a vampire.
But I’d also like to think that this an opportunity for serious conversation about mental health and sports because Gordon might be a victim of both. This isn’t a preemptive apology treatise for Gordon; rather it is a marginal aside that needs to be addressed.
It is apparent that Gordon is suffering. What he’s suffering from only he knows, but shaming or slamming him doesn’t help. Gordon may have lost his opportunity to play professional sports (although the only way to truly ensure he never plays again would’ve been to kneel for black rights) but Gordon has to work through the issues he’s facing off the field before he can ever think about getting back on it.