NFL Wire News

Brady touts Gronkowski’s growth, professionalism


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has been one of the best players on the team and one of the best tight ends in the game since almost the first time he stepped on the field in New England as a second-round pick in 2010.

This season he ranks second on the Patriots with 76 catches, while leading the team with 1,093 yards and 11 touchdown receptions. It’s his second 1,000-yard season and fourth campaign with at least 10 touchdowns.

According to the man who throws him the football and takes advantage of the 6-foot-6 playmaker’s unique skills, Gronk has come a long way.

“He’s grown up a lot over the last five years,” quarterback Tom Brady said. “It’s been a lot of fun to see it. His football IQ and understanding of what it takes to be a professional and consistently and dependably be that type of player for our offense that he’s become has been fun to see. He’s got the size advantage, the speed advantage, and he’s really becoming so aware out there of different coverages and things they’re trying to do to stop him. Now, after this time, he and I are really getting on the same page with a lot of things that are adjustments to adjustments to adjustments and that type of thing.

“It’s just been great playing with him. He’s a huge part of our offense, really gets us going. He’s a threat on third down, he’s a threat in the red (zone) area, he’s a threat on big plays any time in the game. He’s a great player.”

It’s a case of a relatively small draft-draft risk for the Patriots that has played enormous dividends. Gronkowski played two seasons at the University of Arizona but missed the third due to a back injury that left his status among NFL scouts mixed.

“I’d say you pretty much nailed it. That’s what it is,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said about weighting the risk-reward factor. “There wasn’t a ton to go on. It was limited.

“Certainly his college production in the passing game was limited. But you know, we brought Rob up here, we spent some time with him, talked to some people at Arizona that I think gave us good information about Rob in terms of what it was like to be with him on a day-to-day basis. If you meet Rob for 10 or 15 minutes, you might get an impression that may or may not be what it’s like to have him in your office, in a classroom and on the field for six, seven hours a day. It might be a little bit different potentially. Obviously there was a medical concern that we had to clear that hurdle, but our medical people did that. That’s pretty much it.”

Gronkowski has dealt with injuries that have robbed him of 14 games over the past two seasons, but is on pace to play in 16 regular-season games for the third time in five NFL seasons.

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