Despite playing a sport that typically values third-down efficiency over empathy, Matthew Slater has no problem speaking up to be the voice of compassion inside the Patriots locker room.
Josh Gordon's reinstatement by the NFL on Friday is a complicated issue. How was it determined that Gordon is well enough to play? Is football what's best for him? How will the Patriots provide him with support when he returns?
But Slater broke it down more simply following his team's preseason win over the Titans in Nashville: When it comes to Gordon, football isn't what's most important right now.
"We are excited," Slater said of Gordon's return. "I'll say this: Football is number two. We want to see him first and foremost doing well as an individual, doing well as a man, and we want to support him however we can. We're just going to take this one day at a time, which is all any of us can do. And we'll see what tomorrow brings and then we'll let the day after that worry about it when it comes around."
Gordon was a big-play threat any time he was on the field for the Patriots last season. He played in 11 games and led the NFL in yards per reception (18.0). He was suspended late in the year for violating the league's substance abuse policy, and though his NFL rights have remained with the Patriots -- they signed his restricted free-agent tender this offseason -- he hasn't been with the team for months.
Bill Belichick pointed that out in a statement released Saturday.
"For the past eight months, Josh's situation has been entirely a league matter," Belichick's statement said. "When Josh returns to our program, we will evaluate the entire situation and do what we feel is best for Josh and the team."
Slater emphasized the point that he and others will welcome Gordon with open arms.
"I think having support is always a good thing, no matter who you are, no matter what life has brought your way," Slater said. "I think support is good, and hopefully he finds that he has support here. I think that's really all I can say about it now. What's good, what's not good remains to be seen."
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Matthew Slater on Josh Gordon's return: 'Football is No. 2' originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston