RENTON, WA - Already enjoying one of the finest seasons of his NFL career thanks to the presence of star receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson will have another weapon at his disposal heading towards the playoffs.
Coming off the practice field following a team walkthrough period on Thursday, Wilson found out shortly before speaking with reporters in his weekly press conference that the NFL has officially reinstated Josh Gordon from suspension. Per a statement from the league, the veteran receiver will begin COVID-19 testing on Friday and will be eligible to play starting in Week 16.
From a football standpoint, with Metcalf, Lockett, and David Moore already headlining a deep, talented group of receivers at Wilson's disposal, Gordon's impending return brings another wideout offering excellent size, athleticism, and soft hands to the mix for opposing coordinators to worry about.
"He's an amazing receiver," Wilson said when asked about his reaction to Gordon being reinstated. "A guy who was great for us last season, made some great plays. Obviously, he's been a great player over the years and all that."
Previously an All-Pro for the Browns back in 2013, Gordon's talent has always been undeniable. Once he got acclimated with the Seahawks, he caught seven passes for 159 yards in five games, providing a complementary target alongside Metcalf and Lockett.
But after being reinstated from suspension by the NFL for the ninth time in his career, from Wilson's perspective, this isn't about football for the embattled receiver. It's about Seattle being a place where he can thrive on a personal level and beat the demons that have plagued him while being surrounded by supportive coaches and teammates.
"More than anything else, it's hopefully a testament to his growth in life," Wilson remarked. "You always want to see people overcome challenges and everything else. "
Since being selected by Cleveland in the supplemental draft in 2012, Gordon has dealt with his share of challenges off the field. He's been suspended separate seven times for violating the NFL's substance abuse and performance enhancing drug policy, including missing two full seasons and playing in just 10 games total from 2014 to 2017.
Last season, Gordon seemed to have found the ideal landing spot in Seattle. After being claimed off waivers by the team last November, he quickly made a strong impression at all levels of the organization with his work ethic on the practice field and during meetings. It seemed like a perfect fit for the team and player.
Unfortunately, the good feelings didn't last near as long as hoped. Gordon was noticeably distant in the locker room after the Seahawks beat the Panthers in Charlotte last December and didn't make himself available to reporters, clearly indicating something was wrong.
The following day, news broke Gordon had been suspended indefinitely once again and his promising start was finished within a blink of an eye. At the time, Wilson remained hopeful he would get another chance with the team down the road.
"He was going through a lot in his life at the time, to be honest. Those are all personal things," Wilson said. "But I think that he did a tremendous job of really bonding with the guys, fitting in the right way. He was about the approach, studying the playbook, he was ready to roll... He fit in the right way."
As Wilson noted, coach Pete Carroll has always been open to providing players second chances. Though Gordon is well beyond that stage given his history, how he carried himself in his brief time in Seattle last year played a key role in the decision to bring him back at the end of training camp.
Wilson, who has maintained lines of communication with Gordon in recent months, says the receiver has kept close tabs on the Seahawks while awaiting his reinstatement. Having stayed in the Pacific Northwest throughout his suspension and since being re-signed in September, there's no question he wants to contribute for a franchise that has stuck by him through this process.
If his head is on straight, Gordon will certainly have a chance to make an impact once he returns later this month. Most notably, after recording several clutch grabs to move the chains last season, the team could use his sure hands on third downs, as they rank 26th in the league in conversion rate through 11 games. In Wilson's own words, he's sure he will "make key plays" to help Seattle's cause on the field.
Ultimately, however, the star quarterback prays having a strong support system around him will help Gordon avoid the pitfalls that have derailed his life to this point. Because at the end of the day, his long-term health and well-being matter far more than what he accomplishes on a football field.
“I've always told you guys I'm going to pray for people. I'm going to pray for people to overcome them all. I’m rooting for him to be able to overcome and hopefully this time it's better than the last time.”