FOXBORO, Mass. -- Veteran wide receivers Josh Gordon and Demaryius Thomas are back practicing, and the New England Patriots are enjoying it very much.

“They’re a lot of fun to work with, man,” Patriots wide receivers coach Joe Judge said after Monday's practice. “A lot of fun to work with. They come to work everyday with a smile on their face. They come to work everyday highly motivated. They get on the field and compete. They’re a ton of fun to be around. I’ve enjoyed every minute I’ve had to work with those guys.”

What makes Gordon, specifically, so fun to be around?

“He loves football," Judge said. "He works hard, and he competes. When you step between the lines, that’s just fun.”

It's hard to predict what the Patriots will get from Gordon and Thomas this season.

Gordon, when on the field, is a real game-changer with his ability to make tough, contested catches and stretch the field as a deep threat. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw for 56 more yards per game last season when Gordon played compared to when he didn't. Brady's passer rating and yards per attempt also were better with Gordon. The concern with Gordon is him staying out of trouble. He's been suspended multiple times in his career and has a history of substance abuse. Gordon was reinstated by the NFL earlier this month after having been suspended indefinitely since December.


Thomas has enjoyed an impressive career but is 31 years old and coming off an Achilles tear suffered in December. He's confident in his ability to produce at a high level this season, but an Achilles injury is among the toughest to come back from.

It's encouraging for the Patriots that both of these wide receivers are healthy enough to be on the field and practicing. The real fun will come if that remains the case into the regular season because if fully healthy, this group of wideouts could be among the deepest and most talented the Patriots have had in a long time.

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