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Josh Gordon starts Monday night game despite report of disciplinary benching by Patriots

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Josh Gordon started Monday night’s New England Patriots-Buffalo Bills game, despite a report earlier in the day that he would sit out the first quarter or so as punishment for “tardiness.” That was according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, who claimed that the wide receiver was “expected” to miss a few series as the Patriots “continue to work with [and] manage him.”

Instead, Gordon was on the field for the first series of the game, after New England received the kickoff, and he was targeted by quarterback Tom Brady on a deep pass that went incomplete, after which the team punted. It remained to be seen what kind of usage Gordon would receive for the rest of the game, or if the Patriots would comment on the report of expected discipline.

As far as suspensions go for Josh Gordon, this would have been a relative blink of an eye compared to the number of games and full seasons he has sat out in the past, under bans from the NFL for violations of its substance-abuse policies. However, it would also have been notable as the first public punishment he faced since being traded to New England by Cleveland in Week 2.

Since then, the reports on Gordon have been mostly positive, indicating that the talented but troubled 27-year-old was benefiting from being taken under Brady’s wing. That likely was the exact scenario the Patriots had in mind when they assigned Gordon a locker right next to that of the five-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback.

“He’s been really working hard and trying to get things right,” Brady said earlier this month. “I don’t feel like I had to worry about where he was lining up or what he was running. He was super confident. I could tell in his eyes he knew what he was doing.”

Gordon recently described his new team as “a great space and environment to work, to focus and lock in,” where “everybody’s bought in.” He added (via ESPN), “It’s a breeding ground for excellence, so you can’t do anything but get involved and help become a part of it, really.”

The Browns did not specify their reasons for trading away Gordon for a fifth-round draft pick, but he was reported to have been late to a meeting, and the team reportedly had other concerns about his accountability. He was already on very thin ice with Cleveland after being eligible to play in just 10 games since his breakout 2013 season.

With the Patriots, Gordon has only flashed glimpses of his considerable talent while trying to fit into the team’s offense. Over four games in New England, he has 13 catches for 224 yards and one touchdown. His best performance came last week against the Bears, when Gordon caught four passes for 100 yards.

Rapoport noted Monday that the expected benching underscored reports that the Patriots are looking into acquiring an accomplished veteran wide receiver before Tuesday’s trade deadline. He pointed to the Lions’ Golden Tate and the Broncos’ Demaryius Thomas as players in whom New England is “particularly interested.”

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