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Josh Gordon Is Back—and Once Again, He Has Our Full Attention

One of the NFL’s most electrifying presences is back in the league following his reinstatement on Friday. Now he’ll join a Patriots team that desperately needs his services.

Minnesota Vikings v New England Patriots Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images

Death, taxes, and Josh Gordon returning to football activities. After the NFL suspended Gordon on December 20 for violating the terms of his reinstatement (following repeated violations of the league’s policy against substance misuse), the league is now, once again, reinstating him:

Inklings of a potential Gordon return have been building this summer, as Tom Brady posted a video of he and Gordon working out in a private practice back in June. And now, for at least the seventh time in the history of The Ringer, a website that launched in June 2016, we are wondering whether the former Browns and current Patriots wideout can get back to the form he reached in 2013. That season is the stuff of football legend: He put up a league-high 1,646 receiving yards and scored nine touchdowns with Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden, and Brian Hoyer as his quarterbacks. It’s one of the most impressive receiver seasons in recent memory, and it’s the reason why every time it looks like Gordon is set for a return, the “LET’S GOOOO” tweets start flying. It’s hard to forget some of the stuff he used to do:

Unfortunately, Gordon hasn’t been able to live up to the lofty expectations that have been thrust upon him since that season. He’s repeatedly violated the league’s policy against substance misuse throughout his career, earning multiple suspensions that kept him away from the game for all of the 2015 and 2016 NFL seasons, and most of the 2014 and 2017 ones as well. He has struggled with addiction for virtually his entire adult life and has been in and out of in-patient facilities trying to address it.

”We are all rooting for Josh to succeed, both personally and professionally,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement that accompanied the announcement of Gordon’s reinstatement. “Everyone shares in that hope and will continue to support him to every extent possible. But as Josh acknowledged, ultimately his success is up to him.”

The wideout began last season with the Browns, but Cleveland traded him to the Patriots after just one week. In New England, Gordon played more than he has in five years and put up 720 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games. That’s far from his 2013 self, but it’s proof that the 28-year-old is still capable of playing at the NFL level.

Gordon reportedly won’t be available in next week’s preseason game, but will be allowed to play by the start of New England’s regular season. And that’s great news for the Patriots, who can certainly use him. New England lost Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan this offseason. Rookie wideout N’Keal Harry has received some poor marks in camp and flew home early from a joint practice with the Titans after a minor injury had him practicing at half speed. Without Gordon, Brady’s top targets this year would have been 33-year-old Julian Edelman and running back James White (and, even with Gordon, they may still be).

Gordon will likely never reach his 2013 heights again, but it won’t be hard for him to find a spot in the lineup. And as we’ve seen so many times before, it won’t be hard for him to generate an exorbitant amount of hype, either.