FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots are in a familiar position as the calendar turns to December, comfortably atop the AFC East and looking to make a deep run into the postseason.
But for receiver Josh Gordon, this is all new.
“It’s different, that’s for sure,” Gordon acknowledged. “It’s exciting. It’s motivational for me and for everybody. I’ve never really got the opportunity before, considering the circumstances. So it’s great to have the opportunity now.”
Gordon, who has 31 receptions for 547 yards and two touchdowns since joining the Patriots in mid-September, continues to make the most of it.
In 2012 and 2013, the only years in which he played all or most of an NFL season, Gordon was on Cleveland Browns teams that were 3-8 and 4-7 entering December.
In 2014, he rejoined the Browns for the final stretch of the season after serving a suspension; the team had a winning record, but fizzled with four losses in the five games Gordon played. Last year, Gordon played in five December games as the Browns finished 0-16.
So to say Gordon is excited to play in meaningful games down the homestretch, with a chance for his first taste of the postseason, is an understatement.
He is part of a group of first-year Patriots veterans experiencing it for the first time. That group includes cornerback Jason McCourty, left tackle Trent Brown, defensive tackle Danny Shelton and safety Obi Melifonwu.
Gordon credits the leadership in the locker room for helping him stay on track, saying it has made it easy for him to “follow suit” in the team’s demanding culture.
After being integrated into the mix in his first two games — playing 18 snaps apiece — he has since played 389 of a possible 575 offensive snaps (67.6 percent).
“I think there’s a lot more room to expand upon and potential to be reached. It just goes to how much work I put in, and let it manifest itself on the field,” he said. “The most I can do is just stay consistent with my work ethic and the rest will try to work itself out eventually.”
Gordon’s most recent contributions, in Sunday’s win over the New York Jets, included a 17-yard lunging catch along the sideline on the team’s final scoring drive in the fourth quarter. Gordon later described it as an example of practice transferring to the game field, because the Patriots work a lot on receivers coming back to the football.
On that specific play, Gordon was able to get his hands positioned under the football as it was delivered close to the ground.
And while Gordon has been impressive on the field, there also are signs of how he’s making an effort to be a respectful teammate, such as how he credited the return of right guard Shaq Mason, the toughness of running back Sony Michel, and the consistency of running back James White after Sunday’s game.
As for what’s ahead, starting with Sunday’s home game against the Minnesota Vikings, Gordon called his current situation a blessing.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s awesome.”