Whenever a player of Josh Gordon's skill and notoriety is signed to a team, fans are understandably anxious to get him out on the field to see if he still has anything left in the tank.
Kansas City Chiefs fans are no different.
In the lead-up to last week's Sunday Night Football game against the Buffalo Bills, there was no shortage of anticipation to see what the Chiefs' new wide receiver could bring to the table. But unfortunately, Gordon only saw the field for 10% of the team's offensive snaps.
This was partly because the Chiefs were playing from behind for much of the game, which forced them to go into a no-huddle offense late in the third quarter.
"He did good," said head coach Andy Reid of Gordon on Wednesday. "If we hadn't gone into the hurry-up mode, he would've had more. I was thinking somewhere around 20 plays to get him in, and he got nine... so it cut him off of some plays there. But I like the progress he's making."
On Thursday, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said that he likes what he's seen out of his new wide receiver.
"First of all, we thought he did a good job for the things we asked him to do last week," he noted. "I think just getting that dirt off his shoulders — first time possibly getting hit, being exposed to the game-type atmosphere — I think all that nervousness has worn off."
Bieniemy said that they want to get Gordon more involved in the game plan.
"We've just got to keep adding to him — and making sure he's comfortable with the things we're asking him to do," he cautioned. "But we're getting him in the mix — and I've said this before: the kid is very intelligent. He works his tail off out there. He's excited, he wants to contribute — and we're just going to continue to grow with him and keep adding on each and every week to make sure that we're utilizing his ability that he can bring to the table."
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes also said that Gordon is going to see more playing time.
"I think as he gets more accustomed to our offense and how we run it and how we do things, I think you'll see him get utilized more and more over time," he told reporters on Friday. "His skill set is something not a lot of people have in this world — to be that big, that fast [and] that strong.
"I think as you get more comfortable – and you see this in receivers all the time, when they start trusting that what they're doing is the right thing — in that offense, you'll see him make more and more plays."
Gordon says that just that being in Kansas City is a blessing.
"I'm taking it all in stride and I'm enjoying it," he said on Friday. "I look forward to what the future holds in Kansas City."
Before his signing with the Chiefs, the league had suspended Gordon for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy six times — so he's had plenty of practice at keeping himself in shape.
"Non-stop working out" is how he described his most recent suspension routine. "Working my tail off, trying to stay ready for an opportunity — if presented. And here I am."
For a player with such a checkered history, finding a team that believes in you as a person — not just as a player — is crucial. Gordon said that multiple teams were courting him.
"Seattle was obviously still there," he recalled. "Kansas City came in at the last minute — and it was something that I wanted and had been eyeing... There were several other teams, but this was the one that just made the most sense."
Gordon said the team's family-style atmosphere had been a significant factor in his decision.
"Kansas City for an offensive player right now... this is a dream destination. It was an easy decision to make... I knew there was a good group of guys here. And the environment? I heard nothing but great things — the camaraderie [from] being a family-like environment.
"When I got here, I knew immediately that this place would look out for me and take care of me — and that I could reciprocate that back: just come in, do my job and make it easy on myself."
This Sunday presents another opportunity for Gordon to take a step forward in his Chiefs career. The Washington Football Team's secondary has had communication problems within their back end all season; a savvy veteran like Gordon could take advantage of mistakes to make some plays.
Gordon said there are just a few details of the Kansas City playbook that he has yet to grasp.
"Probably just some nuance or terminology — different words you use here now," he said. "But I'm familiar with the offense, going back to my days in Cleveland, [when] coach [Brad] Childress was the OC there... So they knew Coach Reid from Philly — and a lot of it's the exact same — so, fortunately, it didn't take me too long to understand the concepts."
As to maintaining the life choices that have allowed Gordon to play football again, he said the key was to stay focused.
"You really have to have an extreme level of focus if you want to do anything consistently well in life," he observed. "I think also perseverance; you know that. And gratitude: just appreciation for every day being able to wake up, being healthy [and] having the resources I have at my disposal to really go out there and get what it is that I desire most in life.
"And that, right now, is playing football... I'm grateful to be here."