FOXBORO, Mass. — Rob Gronkowski hasn’t played in a preseason game since 2012. There’s no reason for that streak to end Thursday, when the New England Patriots open their exhibition slate against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium.
Don’t expect to hear that from Gronk, though.
When asked after Wednesday’s joint practice whether he expects to play against the Saints, the All-Pro tight end replied, “Coach’s decision, baby.”
That decision almost certainly will be for Gronkowski not to play, as he is far too important to the Patriots’ offense to expose him to potential injury in a meaningless game. Gronkowski has looked somewhat shaky thus far in training camp, however, dropping an alarming number of passes during team drills.
Despite his preseason track record, Gronkowski said he is “planning on playing the whole game” Thursday night.
Some additional notes from a rainy Wednesday morning in Foxboro:
— Part of the appeal of preseason joint practices is seeing franchise players from different teams share a field in a non-game situation. With the Saints coming to town this week, that meant watching Tom Brady and Drew Brees do their thing, which was exciting for fans and fellow players alike.
?Brady and Brees, they?ve been doing it for a long time at a high level,” Saints running back Mark Ingram said. “You?ve got two first-ballot Hall of Famers, and just to be able to watch both of them work, see how they practice, see how they prepare, it?ll open your eyes, and it?s definitely something that you try to learn from them. Pick up little things, ask them little questions. ?
“Those guys are the epitome of true professional athletes and some of the best to play this game.”
— Remember Michael Hoomanawanui? He’s back in town this week after signing with the Saints earlier this year.
The veteran tight end spoke Wednesday about the privilege it is to have caught passes from both Brady and Brees.
?Not many people can say they?ve played with two of the greatest of all time,? Hoomanawanui said. ?It?s a huge honor. I?ve learned a lot from both of them. I?m happy to be in New Orleans right now with Drew, and look forward to the season.?
— Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been mum on which quarterback will start Thursday night, Tom Brady or Jimmy Garoppolo. Garoppolo didn’t offer any insight into the matter, either, when asked after Wednesday’s session.
“I don?t know,” he said. “Your guess is as good as mine.”
It will be interesting to see how Belichick divvies up snaps between Brady and Garoppolo this preseason with Brady set to miss the first four weeks of the regular season as he serves his Deflategate suspension.
As someone who never has started an NFL game, Garoppolo needs all the experience he can get. On the other hand, Brady is not allowed to have any contact with the team during his suspension, meaning he’ll need to get fully acquainted with his new offensive targets — Martellus Bennett, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, etc. — before the preseason ends.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images