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Josh Gordon Joins New England Patriots


NFL wide receiver Josh Gordon said goodbye to Cleveland and hello to New England this week. The Cleveland Browns traded him to the Patriots, giving up a player with lot of talent but also a player with a troubled history. Gordon has committed a number of substance abuse violations in the past, leading to repeated suspensions and mandatory rehab.

Still, his ability on the field is unquestioned. So the question now - can he get his career on track by joining the Patriots? Let's ask Jerry Thornton of Barstool Sports. He is the author of the new book "Five Rings: The Super Bowl History Of The New England Patriots."

Jerry, thanks so much for being here.

JERRY THORNTON: Rachel, good morning. It's my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: First, let's just establish what a talented guy Josh Gordon is. He came into the league, yes, with a history of failed drug tests at Baylor University. The Browns still took a chance on him in 2012. What was his time in Cleveland like?

THORNTON: In a word, mixed. In 2013, Rachel, he had, arguably, one of the greatest years that a receiver ever did. He had over 1,600 yards and nine touchdowns and only 14 games with no real quarterback throwing to him. Since then, in the last - in 65 potential games, he's played 11. You know, at one point, they - he was suspended for a year. That was reduced to 10 games, and he immediately tested positive for marijuana yet again. So it's been a very difficult road for all involved.

MARTIN: So when he's on the field, he does remarkable things. He's just not on there very often because of his history. I want to play a clip of tape from Tom Brady, star quarterback from the Patriots. He weighed in on the Josh Gordon trade in an interview with Westwood One Sports.


TOM BRADY: I hate to make projections and expectations. That's not fair. I've never met Josh personally, just like I haven't met some of the guys that have come in the last couple weeks. So we'll see how it goes this week. Hopefully, he can work hard, put the team first and, you know, end up helping us in any role that he can find for himself on the team.

MARTIN: Jerry, what makes the Patriots think they can get Gordon to stay in the right lane and focus on the game?

THORNTON: They have a history of doing this sort of thing with guys that - to use your word - are troubled. You know, Corey Dillon left Cincinnati in a really contentious way. He literally threw his shoulder pads into the stands and walked off the field. He came to the Patriots and he set a team record - 1,600 rushing yards. You know, Randy Moss wasn't a substance abuser, but he was a guy that was considered, you know, petulant and a diva. He came here and he was one of the best receivers in NFL history.

So it's a team that likes to draft guys that were captains on their college team, fill the locker room full of leaders and sort of have these super leaders emerge and just create a structured environment where a guy like Gordon, who's been on terrible teams his whole career, can maybe come along and say, all right, well, now I'm going to straighten up and fly right.

MARTIN: And I guess because they're the Patriots, they feel like they can afford the risk.

THORNTON: Yeah, exactly. There's absolutely no downside to this. If he doesn't work out, they can just walk away from him as they've done with players who helped them win championships. They can look at Josh Gordon and say, we've won without you. You've done nothing for us. If you don't get along with the program, you'll be gone. And we'll go home and sleep like babies.

MARTIN: All right, Jerry Thornton of Barstool Sports. We'll see how Josh Gordon does wearing New England colors.

Thanks so much. We appreciate it.

THORNTON: All right. Take care, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.