Kansas City, Mo. – The Kansas City Chiefs are never shy about giving players with questionable backgrounds a second chance.
Or third or fourth or fifth.
Or, in Josh Gordon’s case, the sixth.
The wildly talented yet trouble-ridden wide receiver was reinstated by the NFL this week following his fifth suspension for violating its substance abuse policy and performance-enhancing policy. And with the obvious need for a bigger, wider wide receiver for Patrick Mahomes, it made sense that Kansas City was just one of many teams inquiring about him.
Gordon signed with the Chiefs on Tuesday. A day later, he was wearing a red No. 19 jersey and working with the practice squad, while coach was trying to digest Andy Reid’s strong offensive playbook as much as possible.
“Josh is a good player. I think we all know that,” Reid said, “and he worked hard on his position and made sure it was right. He has been reinstated by the league, which I thought was an important step, and so we welcome him.
Reid’s reputation as a coach willing to give players the benefit of the doubt dates back to his time in Philadelphia, when he most famously offered Michael Vick the opportunity to become his quarterback after a prison sentence for his role in the dogfighting ring.
It continues in Kansas City, with mixed results.
Several teams removed Tyreek Hill from their draft board altogether following his arrest on charges of domestic violence during his time at Oklahoma State. He ended his college career in tiny West Alabama, where he received rave reviews from coaches, and was flown in the fifth round by the Chiefs in the 2016 draft.
Not only has he gotten out of trouble, but has also been a three-time All-Pro, setting several franchise records.
Travis Kelce missed the entire college season to a suspension at Cincinnati, and many believe his stock carried over to the 2013 draft. The Chiefs took him to the third round and, like Hill, he earned three All-Pro nods, set multiple records, and teamed up with his faster counterpart to help the Chiefs win the Super Bowl.
On the other side of the coin are players like Marcus Peters, Karim Hunt and Frank Clark.
Peters was a two-time All-Pro cornerback for the Chiefs, who drafted him despite being dropped from his college team. But he fiddled with coaches and teammates in Kansas City and eventually traded with the Rams.
Hunt, who also had issues in college, had a major rookie season for Kansas City before videos surfaced of him kicking a woman in the hallway of a hotel. The Chiefs immediately released Hunt, who was later signed by the Browns.
In the case of Clarke, who was arrested for domestic violence in college, the Chiefs traded him with the Seahawks and signed Pass Rushers to a long-term deal. But he was arrested again in March in Los Angeles and is facing a charge of possessing a gun; His appearance and hearing of the petition is scheduled for next week.
“Everyone deserves a chance to at least try to do the right thing,” Reid said.
Gordon’s talent has never been disputed. He led the league with 1,646 yards received in 2013, when he was an All-Pro with Cleveland, and he showed glimpses of the same ability during brief stops in Seattle and New England.
The question is whether Gordon can survive the drug issues that have plagued his career.
“He had a great eight months here taking care of the business. The league clearly understands that he is a good guy,” Reid said. “We always sell Kansas City in general — it’s a great place to live, a great fan base and so on. So you’re going to get support. As long as you’re doing the right thing, you get support. Will stay.”
The Chiefs also have a strong locker room culture that should help Gordon stay out of trouble.
“We like to bring in good football players, guys who work hard and come here and want to win football games,” Mahomes said, “and so that’s the opportunity to bring them here and put them in that receiver room.” And he will have his own role. He’s a great football player, and I think you know everyone in this offense gets a chance to play.
The Chiefs hoped that either Mecole Hardman, DeMarcus Robinson or Byron Pringle would emerge as their No. 2 wide receiver after Sammy Watkins moved to free agency. But all of them have been inconsistent at best, and now they turn their hopes toward a player whose size and athleticism are unlike anything they have on the roster.
“He’s going to be a guy that even though he’s covered, he’s not covered. You can throw it in there and he can pretend,” Mahomes said. “I’ve talked to him a little bit now and He seems like a great dude who wants to come and do the work, so we’ll see how he can help us in the form of offense when he gets out here on the practice field.”