Josh Gordon watches from afar as Pats play in SB LIII

While the New England Patriots take the field today at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, amid the bright lights of the Super Bowl, Josh Gordon watches from a far quieter venue.

Gordon, who remains indefinitely suspended by the NFL for repeated violations of the substance abuse policy, will watch Super Bowl LIII from an in-patient treatment facility in Gainesville, Fla. During his time in New England, he went through some of his darkest times, according to sources.

By the time his suspension was official, his issues were real, serious and related to far more than just marijuana. Good progress is being made now, sources say, and while Gordon wants to play football, it's clear that recovery is his first priority.

Gordon's latest suspension keeps him in Stage 3 of the drug program and gives him an uphill battle to return to the field. He has yet to be active for an entire season.

Still, his contributions to the Patriots have been noted this week, with teammates wishing him the best, explaining what a good person he is and saying they hope he makes a return.

"It was just unfortunate how things went down and what happened," receiver Chris Hogan said. "All I can say is, Josh was a great teammate. He worked really hard from the second he got there. You can tell how much he wanted to play and enjoyed it. That just blew me away. All he wanted was to make plays for us and to be a playmaker. It stinks that he's not out here with us, he was a big part of this team."

Commissioner Roger Goodell also weighed in during his State of the League address Wednesday.

"I understand the struggles and challenges that he's had to go through," Goodell said, "and he is working at it. He understands what he has to do and this is well beyond football. This is for his life."

The NFL and NFLPA, as part of their joint drug program agreement, are facilitating and arranging Gordon's treatment, and there is no exit date yet for when he would leave rehab. The hope is that it's relatively soon.

Then, Gordon will train in Florida, while also staying in contact with his doctors and doing his treatment. Gordon's goal, of course, is reinstatement, but it's still not yet clear when he would apply. Based on the timing, being ready for training camp is a possibility.

As for his Patriots tenure, while all seemed positive until Gordon broke the news of his absence, all was not well.

He was late several times and battled other issues related to handling responsibility and promptness. During a late-season game, the plan was for Gordon to sit a quarter due to a variety of infractions and he was informed of that penalty, although it never ended up happening.

Perhaps, people who have known him well have said, the change in routine from being traded from the Browns to the Patriots, sent him into a downward spiral. Perhaps being back in the spotlight made it difficult for Gordon to handle. There are only theories. Small issues can lead to big issues.

What is clear is that while all seemed well from the outside, it was not. The infractions mounted up, and it was evident for several weeks he was not in a good place. Then came the suspension.

A few months removed, Gordon is being supported by those who care for him, fighting to stay clean and hopes for a return to the Patriots.

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet.

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