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Josh Gordon’s Patriots debut put on hold

Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon was on the field getting loose before kickoff Sunday. Gordon was listed as inactive and did not play against the Lions.
Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon was on the field getting loose before kickoff Sunday. Gordon was listed as inactive and did not play against the Lions.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

DETROIT — Josh Gordon’s Patriots debut will have to wait.

The wide receiver was inactive for Sunday night’s game against the Lions, likely because of his health and a familiarity with the offense after just one week of practices in New England.

“Josh worked hard [this week],” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said on 98.5 The Sports Hub before the game. “He has a long way to go. We’ll just take it day by day here.”

It wasn’t clear whether Gordon would play until the inactives list came out 90 minutes before kickoff. Gordon was working on the field earlier in the evening, appearing as if he had a small chance to play.


Gordon, who has a hamstring injury, caught some passes from Patriots character coach Jack Easterby and did some stretching with strength and conditioning coach Moses Cabrera and a large group of players, many of them starters who were going to play.

But Gordon also did some pregame work with injured cornerback Duke Dawson and backup offensive linemen Brian Schwenke and Cole Croston, all of whom did not to play against Detroit.

Because of the attention he got from Cabrera and the physical checks he was going through pregame, it looked as if health was the major consideration with Gordon.

The Patriots playbook is thick and complicated, another possible factor, but it’s possible for a player to learn a small package of game-plan specific plays in a week.

“You take the time that you have, that you’re allowed with these guys and spend the time that’s necessary to try to get him up to speed,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Tuesday. “It’s impossible to simulate and replicate the phase 1, phase 2, phase 3 of training camp. You can’t do all that in one week. So, if you get a player in the middle of the year, you try to acclimate him as best you can to the foundation of your system and then also at the same time, if it’s a game-plan situation for a specific opponent.”


It’s difficult, but it has been done. Last year, both of the Patriots’ pass-catching midseason acquisitions — tight end Martellus Bennett and wide receiver Kenny Britt — played the same week they were signed. Bennett had been with the Patriots in 2016 and knew the system, though his health also was a factor at the time.

The year before, however, none of the receivers the Patriots acquired midseason played the same week they got to New England. Tight end Matt Lengel sat for two games before making his debut, wide receiver Griff Whalen never got in a game before he was released, and wide receiver Michael Floyd sat a game before seeing the field.

Gordon’s hamstring injury limited him in practice all week. Quarterback Tom Brady said Friday that he’d thrown to Gordon in practice, but it’s a heavy lift for a player who hasn’t fully practiced to play his first week with a team.

There’s one full-contact practice per week and, if a player can’t totally participate in it, the players who can aren’t going to slow down and lose out on their own work to give one person first-team reps.

“I mean, I think different players are on different work portions of practice. Whoever’s in there, I’m trying to work with and any player that’s limited, I’m going to try to throw it to whoever’s in there,” Brady said Friday.


“So if they’re in there with me, great. If they’re in there with someone else, they’ve got to get their work in. But we’re just trying to get prepared to play.”

Gordon injured his hamstring Sept. 14 at a promotional photoshoot, in part the reason the Browns decided to make Gordon available via trade to get him out of Cleveland.