Two talented wideouts whose NFL careers were derailed by suspensions are getting another shot at gridiron glory. Martavis Bryant and Josh Gordon, who both served numerous suspensions in the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy, have made XFL rosters ahead of the league's 2023 season.
Bryant will start the season as a member of the Las Vegas Vipers, while Gordon is currently rostered by the Seattle Sea Dragons. The Vipers will kick off the XFL season with a road game against the Arlington Renegades on Saturday, February 18. Seattle will face the D.C. Defenders later that evening.
When available for their teams, Bryant and Gordon were highly productive players. As a rookie, Bryant caught eight touchdown passes for the Steelers while averaging 21.1 yards per catch. His 94-yard touchdown against the Bengals was the longest catch by an NFL player during the 2014 season. Bryant caught six more touchdowns the following season before putting on a clinic against the eventual champion Broncos in the divisional round of the playoffs. He had 194 all-purpose yards in Pittsburgh's 23-16 loss.
Bryant, who had served a multi-game suspension during the 2015 season, was suspended for the entire 2016 season. Without him, the Steelers made it to the AFC title game before falling to the eventual champion Patriots. Bryant appeared in just 22 games over the following two seasons and has not played in an NFL game since 2018.
Gordon is a former undrafted rookie who burst onto the scene in Cleveland. In 2013, following a solid rookie season, Gordon led all NFL receivers with 1,646 yards. He would play in just five games over the next three years, however, and would miss two season entirely due to suspension.
Gordon enjoyed a brief career rebirth with the Patriots after being traded in 2018. He was leading the team in receiving before he announced that he would be stepping away from football (the NFL later said that he would have faced an indefinite ban for violating the terms of his conditional reinstatement had he not voluntary walked away). Gordon received a Super Bowl ring from the Patriots after the season despite not being available for the postseason.
Gordon has since had brief stints in Seattle, Kansas City and Tennessee. He played in two games for the Titans earlier this season before he was released from the team's practice squad.
While their odds at making it back to the NFL are slim, the 31-year-old wideouts could enjoy fruitful tenures in the XFL. The XFL had several rules -- including a double forward pass that allows a team to attempt a second pass as long as they haven't crossed the initial line of scrimmage -- that encourages offensive success. The XFL has also adopted the USFL's onside kick alternative that gives teams a chance to keep possession if they can convert on a 4th-and-15 play.
The original XFL ran for a single season in 2001. A rebooted version played five games in 2020 before COVID-19 caused a shutdown, with 2023 seeing its return.