FOXBORO — When Josh Gordon came to the Patriots, he was dealing with a hamstring injury and issues with conditioning.
That was in Week 2.
Now, in Week 14, Gordon says he feels like a new man and the Patriots are reaping the benefits.
“It's night and day. Huge difference,” Gordon said of his conditioning. “Coach [Moses] Cabrera and the strength staff have been amazing, been patient with me, helping me out through my injuries. The training staff, as well, bringing me along where I'm safe and mobile. So, I think I'm as good as I've been.”
It’s showing. Gordon showed off a burst of speed last week, against Minnesota, during his 24-yard touchdown reception. It wasn't too long ago, where Gordon didn't have that same burst. In Week 7, Gordon hauled in a 55-yard pass, but was stopped on the goal line as he ran out of gas.
Despite missing the Patriots first three games, Gordon is second on the team in receiving yards (605) and receiving touchdowns (three). His 17.8 yards per reception leads the Patriots and is fifth best in the NFL. His 437 offensive snaps played trails James White's 485 snaps, which is impressive considering White has played in three more games,
Even more impressive is Gordon’s connection with Tom Brady, his locker mate. On Thursday, the receiver said he looks up to the quarterback as a mentor.
“You know, I came in with the idea of he’s a hard-working guy. He’s done nothing but shown that continuously and consistently,” Gordon said. “He’s family man. Love his family. He FaceTime’s with the kids, something I can relate to with my family, my kids. He enjoys the game. He just enjoys I think everything that comes with it and it’s good to be able to be in such close proximity to learn from it. I look up to the guy. He’s doing everything right. I just enjoy the time around him.”
Over the last two weeks, Gordon has caught all eight Brady passes thrown his way. The Patriots quarterback has been trying to get other receivers involved in the game plan, but Gordon is making the most of every opportunity.
“I think just remaining focused and locked in on what I want to get down and how I can contribute in my opportunities to do so,” Gordon said. “Really just making sure I capitalize when those times presents themselves and fortunately enough I was able to catch the targets that’s been given.”
McCourty nominated for Man of the Year
On Wednesday, the NFL announced 32 nominees for their Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. Every season, one player from each team is selected and eligible to win the national award. The honor recognizes those who make an impact in their community.
That’s why Devin McCourty’s nomination wasn’t a surprise.
“This Walter Payton Man of the Year Award is such a special award,” said Patriots owner Robert Kraft. “One of the privileges of buying the team is getting exposed to so many great young men. But, Devin we drafted in 2010 and I don’t know of anyone else who was elected a captain in his second year and consistent right through. But, he was so mature, so classy, so good. His mom did an outstanding job. He is awesome on the field, but what he does outside of here that’s so important to our family, no one exceeds that.”
McCourty, along with his brother, Jason, raise money and awareness for their foundation, Tackle Sickle Cell. McCourty is also plays a big role in the Patriots community outreach programs. Recently, he's traveled around the region to discuss the likes of juvenile criminal justice reform, the school-to-prison pipeline and disproportionate punishment for students of color.
“I think when you look at the NFL, I think people try to highlight the negative things,” McCourty said. “So, I think anything that brings a positive light to our game and to the men that go out here and sacrifice and put their bodies on the line and still use their free time to give back and help other people out, I think that’s what it’s about.”
The 2018 NFL Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award will be announced during the NFL Honors show on Feb. 2.
Gronk, Brady off injury report
The Patriots are close to operating at full health.
For the second consecutive day, the Patriots had their full 53-man roster at practice on Thursday. (The only player absent was practice squad offensive lineman Cole Croston). The big news, however, came on the injury report.
Neither Rob Gronkowski nor Brady were on it.
Brady was limited on Wednesday with a knee injury. Gronk was limited with a back and ankle injury. On Thursday, both players were full practice participants and removed from the Patriots injury report. The Pats had two players limited in their second practice of the week — Patrick Chung (shoulder) and Dwayne Allen (knee).
The Miami Dolphins, however, aren’t in the same shape health wise. The team hasn’t had star cornerback Xavien Howard (knee) at practice all week. Receivers Danny Amendola (knee), DeVante Parker (shoulder) as well as running back Kenyan Drake (shoulder) were all limited.