Having been away from the game for more than a year, Rob Gronkowski had to work his way back into football shape after coming out of retirement to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But as the Buccaneers’ virtual offseason program dragged on, the 31-year-old tight end admitted he cut a few corners.
With the COVID-19 pandemic making in-person training sessions impossible, Bucs strength and conditioning coach Anthony Piroli assigned his players workouts to complete at home. They were instructed to record themselves doing each exercise, then submit the video as proof of completion. Other NFL clubs operated under similar setups until players were able to reconvene for training camp.
At first, Gronkowski embraced the novelty of this process. But the chore of recording each of his workouts eventually became tiresome. So he devised a scheme — one that, according to him, Piroli never caught wind of.
“Oh, man. I tricked (Piroli),” Gronkowski said Monday during a Super Bowl LV week video conference. “I tricked him a few times (in) those virtual workouts. Those were fun, though, at first. Just seeing the little chart that has all the workouts on it, just doing them all, filming yourself — it was fun for, like, the first week filming yourself, sending the video in, making yourself look good. If you felt like that one wasn’t good, you were like, ‘Oh, I’m going to make myself look good so he thinks I’m doing everything.’
“And then after, like, a week, it was like, ‘Oh, man. I just wish we were in person.’ Because every time, I had to film myself and send it in in order to get credit for the workout and stuff. So that was kind of getting a little annoying. But then, I started tricking him. I would bring my shirt out, and then I would bring another shirt out, so when I’m running the sprints, I would film myself, like, 15 times for that session, that workout session. But I would run it in a couple different shirts — because you only had to send in, like, two or three reps — so that when the next time came, I didn’t have to film myself because I already filmed myself running in a different shirt every time on that one day.
“And he doesn’t have a clue to this day that I was tricking him about half the time during those virtual workouts.”
Piroli probably won’t be thrilled to learn he was duped, but physical fitness was not an issue for Gronkowski this season.
After dealing with a laundry list of major injuries during his nine years with the New England Patriots, Gronkowski played in every game for the Tampa Bay — his first time playing a full 16-game schedule since 2011 — and, as he proudly declared Monday, has not missed a practice since the start of camp.
“I’ve played, what, 19 games. This is the 28th week we’re going on of just straight football, (and I) haven’t missed a practice all year,” said Gronkowski, who caught 45 passes for 623 yards and seven touchdowns during the regular season. “Not training camp — nothing. So I just feel good, man. I feel pretty good.”
The Bucs will face the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday in Super Bowl LV.