Welcome to the Circle of Trust, Josh Gordon

It may mean good things are in store for Tom Brady and the Patriots.

Josh Gordon (right) celebrates with teammate Chris Hogan after he caught a 34-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter against the Colts. It was Tom Brady's 500th career TD pass.
Josh Gordon (right) celebrates with teammate Chris Hogan after he caught a 34-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter against the Colts. It was Tom Brady's 500th career TD pass. –Jim Davis/Boston Globe Staff

COMMENTARY

Chad Ochocinco never made it. Nor did Joey Galloway.

There’s some debate as to whether Chris Hogan is actually a member or not. Same goes for Phillip Dorsett, who seemed to do well at the initiation, but has seen mixed results since.

But new Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon is in, officially receiving his membership in the Tom Brady Circle of Trust Thursday night during New England’s 38-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts. And let the record show that Gordon managed his admission in only two games, a far shorter period of time than others, including notable alums Danny Amendola and Wes Welker, had managed.

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That’s what will happen in Brady’s eyes when you prove to be as worthy a weapon as Gordon managed in catching his first touchdown as a Patriot. The receiver emerged from a battle with two defenders at the scoring end of an extended broken play, magnificently hauling in a 34-yard pass that just so happened to be the 500th of Brady’s career.

“That tells you the kind of confidence I have in a really short period of time,” the quarterback said after leading the Patriots to their third win of the season. “He’s earned it and happy to see him make that play.”

It wasn’t only Gordon’s long rap sheet with drugs and alcohol that should have served as a deterrent to Patriot fans getting their hopes up that he might sway in and instantly become Brady’s most dangerous target since Randy Moss. There was also the question as to how he would fit into Brady’s limited engagement. After all, the Circle of Trust can eat up the psyche of wide receivers; firmly denying them entry at the door (Jordan Matthews) or merely teasing them with expiring guest passes (Malcolm Mitchell).

Entry into Brady’s club doesn’t come easily.

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But on a night when charter member Julian Edelman also returned to the field, Gordon was initiated into the circle with a tremendous catch that will not only go down as a landmark moment for the quarterback, but maybe an even more important one for the receiver.

It’s not exactly hyperbolic to call Gordon’s touchdown catch the most significant of his career, if only because anything he did with the bungling Cleveland Browns is rendered pointless anyway.

After playing in only 11 games from 2014-17, the result of numerous suspensions from the NFL for his addictions, Gordon is in a new place, just as much physically as he is emotionally. He’s caught plenty of touchdown passes in the past. Heck, he was on the receiving end of one from Tyrod Taylor in the first week of this season, not long before the Browns gave up on him.

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But the first one from Tom Brady? His 500th?

That’s got to be just a little different than catching one from, oh, say, Jason Campbell.

“To catch any pass from Tom is amazing, let alone some history-making catch,” Gordon said. “Hopefully, he’s got a lot more left in him – I’m pretty sure he does – so I’m looking forward to that. The next history point to make for him, I hope to be a part of it.”

Hope.

Here’s where the script changes though in terms of what Gordon went through in Cleveland versus the opportunity sitting in front of him in New England. The landscape has been altered for Gordon, who is trying to stay clean in an environment that isn’t relatable to his past. In Cleveland, it was simply rehabbing at the same spots, doing the same drills over and over, and leaving little room for personal growth when going through the motions.

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And the light at the end of the tunnel still reminded Gordon he was stuck with the most hapless franchise in sports.

That’s no disrespect to the Browns, who have seemingly started a steady renaissance under Baker Mayfield, the first solid decision the team has made at quarterback since Bernie Kosar. But Gordon’s reality in Cleveland was part of the problem, having to submit himself back into the same cycle that led him down destructive paths. No turnaround in Cleveland was going to help Gordon with his demons because Gordon was still on the same program.

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

It wasn’t going to change for Gordon in Cleveland.

Sometimes the most successful rehabs in life call for significant alterations in a person’s geography. Sometimes they insist upon reversal of past attempts, a modification of what might work for others tailored to fit the needs of Gordon.

But staying clean will always be only part of the challenge for Gordon with the New England Patriots. It will be today just as much as it will the day before the Super Bowl, two days before training camp, or a random Wednesday next November.

Gordon eased into the other half of the equation Thursday night, now officially welcome in Tom Brady’s Circle of Trust.

That’s something he was never going to be a part of in Cleveland.

Maybe that membership will ultimately turn out to be not as strong as his addiction. Or maybe it is the first step to another run at a transformation that could prove successful.

Josh Gordon is in. And the fun is just about to start. But it will only last as long as Gordon can manage, and there can be no definitive timetable on that.
Which is why Thursday’s step should carry a lot more weight than it might have otherwise.
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