FOXBOROUGH – Josh Gordon didn’t talk to the media on Monday afternoon. He was, however, the talk of the Patriots locker room.
The receiver became a return man, joining his teammates at Gillette Stadium and attending practice for the first time since he was reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell last Friday.
When Gordon arrived last season via trade from the Browns, he quickly fit in at his new home and became a popular person in the locker room. His teammates supported him during his 11-game run and even after he was indefinitely suspended in December, often posting messages of encouragement to Gordon via social media.
It was clear Monday that that support is still strong.
“We all love Josh, I love Josh,’’ fellow receiver Phillip Dorsett said before practice. “I’m just glad to have him back. He looks good. When you haven’t seen one of your brothers in a long time, and then you see him, it’s definitely refreshing.’’
Gordon made two quick appearances in the locker room during media availability, once picking something up from his locker before heading to the training room and then another visit before heading toward the meeting rooms.
“I’ve briefly been able to say hello to him,’’ said running back Rex Burkhead. “He’s a great player, great guy, and it’s a pleasure to see him around again. He’s a great addition for our team. Whatever the coaches ask of him, I’m sure he’ll be ready to do it.’’
Gordon was out on the practice field as “Out the Mud,’’ from Lil Baby and Future blared over the speakers. He was in game pants but no helmet or pads as he did some light, high-step jogging and stretching with his teammates.
Because the 28-year-old Gordon was placed on the non-football injury list, there was only so much he could do during the session.
Gordon looks to be in phenomenal condition, though it’s tough to tell if he’s in football shape because he hasn’t practiced or played since the Patriots lost in Pittsburgh in December.
Per the conditions of his reinstatement, Gordon isn’t allowed to participate in Thursday’s preseason game against the Panthers, even if the Patriots elect to remove him from NFI.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 225-pound Gordon had an immediate impact upon joining the Patriots last season. He built a rapport with Tom Brady and caught 40 passes for 720 yards and three touchdowns.
If he can build on that, it will go a long way in boosting a receiving corps that has been without Julian Edelman, who made his full pads debut Monday after being on NFI with a broken thumb all summer, and will be without Rob Gronkowski, who is enjoying retirement.
“He’s a physical specimen — we all know that,’’ said Dorsett. “Even from what he did last year – he helped this team out a lot. And we’re definitely hoping he can come back and do the same thing.’’
Gordon is a powerful player with excellent size, acceleration, and strength. He has the length and power of a tight end and the gracefulness of a receiver. He runs superb slants and go-routes and will challenge and fight for contested balls.
If Gordon is able to get back up to speed quickly it would shake up a receiving corps that has seen a ton of competition from a ton of candidates this summer.
Gordon could join Edelman, Dorsett, and rookies N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers as roster locks. Demaryius Thomas and Cam Meredith are still on the physically-unable-to-perform list.
Veterans Maurice Harris, who has had a strong summer, as well as Braxton Berrios, Gunner Olszewski, Ryan Davis, and Damoun Patterson are also battling for a spot.
Bill Belichick has liked what he’s seen from the group but acknowledged there’s a long way to go before any decisions are made.
“I think the guys that have been out there have improved,’’ the coach said before practice. “There’s still a lot of people we haven’t seen actively on the field. I mean, we’ve seen them, but they haven’t participated. So, to be determined.’’