If you get all of your New England Patriots news directly from the team, you would have no idea Rob Gronkowski addressed the media for the first time since returning from Super Bowl LII this weekend.
The tight end stood at the same podium in the Patriots media workroom where head coach Bill Belichick holds news conferences during the season. Gronkowski, dressed from head to toe in Monster Supercross gear, essentially made a mockery of his absence from the Patriots offseason workout program.
Patriots reporters were alerted to Gronkowski’s media appearance Friday morning. If the team knew about it before the media, it certainly wasn’t long before. And every media member who walked into the Gillette Stadium media workroom Saturday at noon knew exactly what was about to go down. It was described as a “fun and informative pre-race press conference that will play up Rob?s whereabouts.” There were no hard feelings when Gronkowski didn’t explicitly say whether or not he was going to play in 2018.
But the question needed to be asked, and it was many times. Purposefully or not, Gronkowski hinted at a return. We all assume he’ll play football in 2018. That’s not exactly the point. The point is he hasn’t come out and said it after admitting the question exists after Super Bowl LII.
Patriots fans seem to want to know if he’s definitely playing, though. And, according to a very unscientific poll conducted on Twitter, New Englanders are kind of growing tired of Gronkowski’s act.
Of 4,235 voters, 59 percent said, “Yes,” they’re getting tired of Gronk’s act. That’s surprising.
And that’s just among the 4,000 who voted. The true majority of Patriots fans might feel differently. The 4,000 people out of 29,000 who care about the Patriots enough to follow one of many beat reporters responded to a poll over a weekend. I don’t know what the standard deviation is. I barely know what standard deviation means. I don’t recall doing great in Mr. Bowdish’s high school statistics class. But there are fans getting perturbed.
And what is Gronk’s act, per se? I don’t really know. The poll was worded vaguely on purpose. “Gronk’s act” is a term you see floated on Twitter or through the media nowadays. Is it the hemming and hawing? The being treated differently than other Patriots? The wanting to be treated differently than other Patriots?
Gronkowski is one of the most beloved athletes in New England sports history. It felt unconditional at one time. But some fans noticeably began to turn with all the injuries. The more negative subset of fans openly questioned if it wouldn’t be smarter to trade the tight end. Reporters, this one included, guffawed.
More fans have begun to turn this offseason. They want to know if Gronkowski is playing. And they’re getting a little sick of all the trolling, no matter whom it’s directed at. It started with vague social media posts. And this weekend, he took it to another level.
Asked about his status, Gronkowski said it’s doing great and that he’s been riding dirtbikes.
Is he contemplating retirement? That depended on how the Supercross event went.
He actually gave a hint at his plans when asked about his fans. He said they’d see a “freak-a-leak” when he comes back.
So, he is coming back?
“Uh, maybe.” Then he laughed.
Gronkowski’s entourage at the event thought the whole interaction was hilarious. It was funny. Gronkowski’s a funny dude, and he’s got a natural charisma. But some Patriots fans seem sick of the jokes and just want to know if they should expect him on the field in May for OTAs, June for minicamp, July for training camp, August for preseason and most importantly, on Sept. 9 for Week 1 of the regular season. You can’t really blame them, right?
And it’s certainly interesting that the Patriots’ second biggest star spoke this weekend, and you wouldn’t know it based on looking at the Patriots’ website, Instagram or Twitter.
The team finally acknowledged it Monday morning on the website, using a story about his press conference being a “bad look” as the headline for its daily “News Blitz” feature.
So, what happens now? Do the Patriots appease him by handing him a new contract? Probably wouldn’t be a terrible idea. Do they not want to set a precedent and instead force Gronkowski’s hand to either return, retire or formally hold out? Do they trade him?
It’s going to be an interesting few months. Gronkowski said he wasn’t going to attend voluntary workouts. But the clock is ticking before mandatory minicamp starts up in June, and the season is coming up fast.