FOXBORO, Mass. — Patrick Chung has covered dozens of tight ends over the course of his 10-year NFL career, but few matchups have been more difficult than the one he faces each day in practice.
For the better part of the last decade, Chung and Rob Gronkowski have waged war on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium — one of the league’s toughest safeties squaring off against arguably the greatest tight end in history on a daily basis.
Chung and Gronkowski both have discussed these battles multiple times over the years. But on Thursday, Chung paid his longtime practice combatant a truly rare compliment.
“You guys see what he’s meant to the game,” Chung said of Gronkowski during a pre-Super Bowl LIII news conference at Gillette. “I don’t have to tell you that. But to me, he has made me the player I am. I get to go against him every day for the last eight, nine years. He’s definitely made me better, period.
“So I actually need to thank him. Personally, that’s how I feel about him. And we’ve been grinding it out. There’s days we don’t want to grind it out, and we’re going to grind it out. So much love to him. Thank you.”
Gronkowski, who might be playing in his final NFL game next Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams, offered similar praise for Chung in 2016.
“I would definitely want to (give) some of my credit towards him on my success,” he said at the time, “because every single time during training camp during the last four years, we would go at it. He was just a great guy to always battle, because we’re in it for each other. I’m trying to make him a better player. Chung is always trying to make me a better player.”