Josh Gordon issues first statement since return

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Josh Gordon has not spoken to the media since being reinstated from his indefinite suspension.

Ahead of his return to regular-season football, the New England Patriots receiver issued a statement to explain his absence and his journey back to the game.

"Before the 2019 season starts, I would like to address an issue that arose toward the end of last season," Gordon wrote. "It's been well documented that I have battled substance abuse for quite some time. Unfortunately, I did not take the time to focus on a solution to my problem until this past year. I am eternally grateful for the constant support from the NFL, NFLPA and the Patriots organization. I also want to thank my family, friend and all the fans who supported me while I addressed this issue.

"Going forward, I will not be discussing the details of my past. I plan to focus on the present and getting better every day. I hope people will judge me on what I do now and in the future. I look forward to being a member of the Patriots once again this season and doing my part by contributing on and off the field."

Gordon joined New England via trade from the Cleveland Browns in September. The wideout played and started in 11 games for the Patriots as they embarked on another title run. Gordon had compiled 40 receptions for 720 receiving yards and three scores before the league suspended him again for violating the league's substance abuse policy in December.

Gordon was conditionally reinstated on Aug. 16. The Pats wideout was quickly incorporated back into team activities and played in New England's preseason finale, catching two passes on six targets for 30 yards.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick has so far been impressed with Gordon's reacclimation.

"Yeah, Josh has worked hard," Belichick said during his presser Friday, per PatriotsWire. "He's created an opportunity for himself. But, you know, I'm excited for our entire team. We've got a lot of guys -- everybody's worked hard, put a lot into it. It's time to start playing. It's time to see where we're at.

"This is what you put in all that time in the offseason (for). Training camp and OTAs and all the other things that go into it -- this is what it's for: starting regular-season games. So I think we're all ready to go -- or will be Sunday."

The receiver is just one of three Patriots veterans who recently returned to game action. Julian Edelman and Demaryius Thomas came back from injuries to play in New England's final preseason game.

It's unclear how much Gordon and his fellow wideouts will play in the Patriots' opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night. Thomas was listed as questionable to play with a hamstring injury, while Edelman and Gordon appear good to go.

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