FOXBOROUGH — Bill Belichick and Tom Brady both made their first public comments about Josh Gordon’s suspension Friday, and both coach and quarterback expressed support for the receiver while stressing a myopic focus on the team’s upcoming game.
Belichick opened his morning news conference with a short statement, saying he spoke with Gordon on Thursday morning. Players said Wednesday that Belichick addressed the team at an 8 a.m. meeting that same day.
“It’s obviously an unfortunate situation, and personally, I wish him the very best, as we all do on this team,” Belichick said. “He’s made a statement, the organization’s made a statement, the league’s made a statement. I’ve spoken on him at length over the last three months, and so I don’t really have anything at this point to add to that. It’s a private matter, and I hope that he’s able to deal with it successfully. So, otherwise, we’re moved on to Buffalo and big challenge ahead of us on Sunday. Today will be a big day for us, and we need to make the most of it and be ready to go.”
Later Friday during his press conference, Brady said he was personally sad for Gordon but “didn’t have much of a reaction” to the news.
“We all wish him the best, I think that’s kind of how we all feel,” Brady said. “We want him to do what’s best for him.”
Brady said he had no indication that Gordon was struggling with his mental health or that the receiver might be suspended.
“I mean, I have no idea,” Brady said. “Like I said, I showed up, I heard just like everyone else.”
Belichick was asked if his conversation with Gordon was how he found out his team would be without the receiver going forward. He was asked if he felt as if the Patriots had done all they could for Gordon. He did not comment on either topic.
Gordon was suspended Thursday for a violation of the terms of his conditional reinstatement to the NFL under the league’s substance abuse policy. Gordon had three prior suspensions for substance abuse, the last one ending in November 2017 when he was conditionally reinstated. A violation of the terms of that reinstatement could mean that Gordon failed a drug test or even that he skipped a meeting he was required to attend.
Given that this suspension is his fourth, and that Gordon already had to plead his case to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to be reinstated last year, it’s possible that he will face banishment.
Asked to gauge the difficulty in getting this news in Week 16, Belichick said “it is what it is.”
Asked if there was a chance the Patriots could work with Gordon, who would be a restricted free agent this offseason, in the future, Belichick said he was focused on Buffalo. He gave the same answer to the question of whether the Patriots might look to add another receiver.
“Yeah, we’re going to try to put together the best game plan and be as competitive as we can against Buffalo on Sunday,” Belichick said. “That’s what we’re looking over right now.”
Brady likened losing Gordon, whose 720 receiving yards lead the Patriots, to losing a player due to injury because it forces a similar quick adjustment by the offense.
“The reality is it could happen the first play of the game, too, you know? Someone could sprain an ankle and next thing you know guys are adjusting and that’s just part of, I think, the nature of playing a long time. You realize that things happen very quickly and they change very quickly,” Brady said. “We lost Jeremy Hill the first day of the year. You think you’ve got all this running back depth and next thing you know, guys get hurt and you know, it’s two weeks in and holy cow, what happened? That’s just part of playing and being mentally tough. Everything changes quickly. That’s just part of it is you deal with things over the course of a long season, 16 weeks.”
Asked if he’d reached out to Gordon since Thursday morning, Brady, whose locker was next to Gordon’s, said he preferred to keep that information private. He reiterated what he said many times since Gordon was acquired in September, that the receiver was a hard worker who played well for the offense.
“That’s exactly how I felt, certainly appreciate all his efforts and hard work,” Brady said.