Rob Ninkovich on Josh Gordon trade: ‘I think it just sends the wrong message’

Ninkovich is not a fan of the move.

Rob Ninkovich
Rob Ninkovich during an NFL football game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. –Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini

Former Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich said he wouldn’t take a chance on wide receiver Josh Gordon, the newest addition to New England’s roster.

“I wouldn’t, personally,” Ninkovich said on WEEI’s “Dale & Keefe” following the report that the Patriots were close to reaching a deal for Gordon Monday afternoon.

Citing Gordon’s long history with substance abuse and multiple suspensions by the league, Ninkovich said the team’s latest acquisition “sends the wrong message.” Ninkovich said, despite Gordon’s stellar 2013 season in which he earned first-team All-Pro honors as the league’s leading receiver, he doesn’t think the 27-year-old would be “a great fit” in New England.

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“There’s guys that fit and guys that don’t,” Ninkovich told WEEI. “There’s a certain personality that has to be considered when you play for the Patriots. I question his love for the game if you’ve been suspended so many times or you hurt your hamstring doing a video for some type of endorsement when you’ve practiced all week. Isn’t that letting down your teammates?”

Gordon has not been active for a full NFL season since his rookie year in 2012. Although he did injure his hamstring during a promotional photoshoot over the weekend, he is expected to be healthy enough to play against the Detroit Lions Sunday, according to multiple reports. Even if he’s active, Ninkovich doesn’t anticipate the transition will be seamless.

“First of all, receiver isn’t a plug-and-play position,” Ninkovich said. “It’s not like, ‘OK, here’s the phone book of Tom’s plays and you’re ready to go on Sunday.’ It’s going to take somebody at least a month to like really understand the offense. So you bring a guy in, you’ve got to take another guy off the roster. At what point does your talent hide everything else like your issues?”

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Though Gordon is lauded to have an extremely high level of raw talent, Ninkovich stressed coach Bill Belichick’s focus is geared more toward one’s accountability — “Bill will say this all the time, ‘It’s not your ability. It’s, ‘Are you dependable? Are you reliable?'” — and he doesn’t expect Gordon will get the job done.

“Why would the Browns let go of one of their best players when they haven’t won a game in a year and two weeks or whatever?” he said. “It tells me he’s not dependable. You can’t depend on that guy.”

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Ninkovich also expects the change in environments to be a transition for Gordon, who has only played for the Browns. During Gordon’s six-year tenure — he only played 41 games — the Cleveland amassed a 20-77-1 record.

“I think there’s a certain amount of pressure and stress that come with playing with the Patriots — and expectations,” Ninkovich said. “He’s in a place where, really, if they win one game, it’s a celebration. There’s no playoff hopes. There’s no win your division. There’s no failure if you don’t win your division. The Patriots here, I mean, it’s definitely a stressful environment. It’s not easy to play here.”

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