Gronk has to prove he’s still a great player

by Gary Shelton on August 27, 2020

in general

Gronk limbers up the legs - TIM WIRT

Thursday, 2 a.m.

What? Did you expect him to turn solemn overnight.

Hey, this is Gronk, okay, who has led the NFL in fun throughout his career. He has been greatness with a smile on his face. And early in the training camp of his new team -- the Tampa Bay Bucs -- this much is still evident. He hasn't forgotten how to smile.

“I think the first thing he brought was his great jokes and his personality," said fellow tight end Cameron Brate. "To go along with that, just his passion for the game – it’s infectious. Even just doing drills, he’s laughing. He just makes practice more fun. Football-wise, Rob is one of the best tight ends of all-time – someone I really looked up to when I was in college up in the northeast there. Just his wealth of experience and being able to watch the way he plays and picking up on some of the little things that he does that set him apart has been super useful. It’s something that O.J. [Howard] and I have talked about almost every day. Little things that we notice that he did that were like, ‘Oh, never really seen someone do that.’ Small stuff like that is going to definitely boost our games and [there is] definitely a little bit of a friendly competition between all of us – fighting for targets in practice and working together in the run-game as well. It’s just been awesome having him in the room.”

Content beyond this point is for members only.

Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the blog (it's at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo)!

Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on

Hey, nothing wrong with having a little fun, as long as it comes with winning. Even when he was a Patriot -- which is kind of a button-down, no-fun kind of team -- Gronk let you know that he saw the loopy side of the NFL.

Guess what? That part of his game, at least, is back.

“I would say the number one thing I noticed with him initially was just his positivity," Brate said. "If we ran a bad route or it was incomplete, [he said], ‘Hey, don’t worry about it. We’ll get the next one.’ Then, really encouraging when you had a good catch or you ran a good route – stuff like that. But there’s been times, too, where he’s kind of gotten on guys as well if it’s not up to the standard we’re hoping for. I think he does a good job balancing the two. I’ve seen him, obviously, on gameday really go after guys. I think that’s just his competitive nature – I think that’s kind of what sets him apart. But, in practice we’ve kind of seen a little bit of both.”

The good news is that, over most of his career, Brady has used his tight ends well. With Gronkowski, Brate and O.J. Howard, the Bucs should be able to work the field well.

For the Bucs, that means higher expectations and greater urgency.

“I think that’s pretty spot on," Brate said. "He has raised the expectations. Having a guy like Tom in here leading the team with the success he’s had in his career definitely raises the expectations that we have for ourselves. I wouldn’t say it’s about letting Tom down – we look at the expectations as a positive. We’re going to have more eyes on us – a chance to show the country who we are as players and as a team. I think it’s super exciting for us to have those expectations and it’s going to be a great opportunity.”

Bucs' coach Bruce Arians said the physical side of Gronkowski is coming along, too.

"No similarities (to when he was hurt) at all," Arians said last week. "He looks like he was five or six years ago before all the injuries. The back surgeries have healed, so he had a year of healing. He looks to me like he was five or six years ago.”

Tight end coach Rick Christophel echoed what Arians said.

“I think the most amazing thing about Gronk is that as big of a guy as he is, he’s athletic," Christophel said. "He can do a lot of things. He’s got some quick-twitch movements. Everything that you’ve seen being in the league and seeing him play, getting to watch him on film, getting to watch him on television – I think the most important thing is it matters to him. He loves it. He has fun. He loves to play the game and he has fun out there, but it matters to him. When he makes a mistake, it hurts him and like Tom (Brady), he wants to win. I think that’s a big component of what makes his personality.”

As for Gronkowski, he says he's looking forward to playing with Brady again.

“His arm looks like (when) I first got into the league," Gronkowski said. "I think he was 32 or 33 years old and his arm may actually be stronger than when he was 33 when I first got to the league, which is incredible. I would say myself going out there, I was a little rusty getting used to the game of football. I still have a lot of ways to go, I have a lot of improvements to still make from my conditioning, to knowing the playbook, to just getting a feel of the football game. The first couple of practices were a little weird. It was fast, but now it’s starting to get to the point where we left off about 18 months ago and that’s a good feeling. It’s a good feeling when we connect with a pass and all that good stuff. That’s the feeling it’s starting to be and that’s the feeling we’re trying to get to every single day."

Previous post:

Next post: