CHANDLER, Ariz. — Hey, did you hear Rob Gronkowski is healthy?
One of the biggest storylines of Super Bowl XLIX wouldn’t be one for most other NFL players. The New England Patriots tight end has dealt with so many injuries in his career, however, that a fully-healthy playoff run is an anomaly.
Gronkowski was a shell of himself in Super Bowl XLVI, when the Patriots lost 21-17 to the New York Giants. He broke his forearm during the playoffs following the 2012 season and was out with a torn ACL last year.
The All-Pro tight end appears 100 percent going into Sunday’s matchup with the Seattle Seahawks, and his newfound health is allowing him to appreciate the game more.
“Oh, yeah, no doubt,” Gronkowski said Wednesday at the team’s hotel. “When you get the game taken away from you just like that in a snap of a second, you appreciate the game so much more when you’re sitting at home watching your teammates play when you’re just watching the game on TV. You just wish you were out there with the boys just working hard, grinding hard, so you appreciate the game a lot more and you don’t take it for granted when I’m out there on the field, practice field, game field, you just don’t take it for granted. You go hard every day and you enjoy it.”
Head coach Bill Belichick even admitted in seeing a change in his tight end.
“Rob always has a great energy and enthusiasm for the game, is always ready to go, loves to practice, loves to work, works hard in the weight room, competes well all the time,” Belichick said. “You never really have to get on Rob and go, “You know, that wasn’t your best,” or that kind of thing.
“He’s always out there working hard. But I do think that being said, there’s maybe just a little extra level there, just like what you referred to. Coming back multiple times, he’s come back from various setbacks, and I think the fact that it’s gone well, that he continues to feel better and better each week — I think that certainly any time you either lose something or go without something for a little while, you have that appreciation when you’re able to regain it or even possibly move up to a little bit higher level, which I would say probably is the case with him.
“His hard work and diligence in all areas from training to technique to just a lot of little things. And I think that he and (tight ends) coach (Brian) Daboll have a great relationship and Brian’s done a great job with all of our tight ends, but obviously Rob in particular. But there are a lot of little coaching points that — things that Rob does better now than he did a year ago or two years ago. Part of that’s experience, part of that’s just a little bit better understanding and harder work on those little things — they become big things. But, you know, in the end, the credit goes to Rob. He works hard, he competes well, he listens, we tell him to do something and he really tries hard to do it. I have tremendous respect for Rob and the way he goes about his job.”
Gronkowski will be key in moving the ball on the Seahawks, whose defensive backs are expected to blanket the Patriots’ wide receivers. Gronkowsk is expected to go against safety Kam Chancellor, who has had high praise for his opponent this week.
Thumbnail photo via Mark Humphrey/Associated Press