Hannable: It’s time to really appreciate Rob Gronkowski

Ryan Hannable
November 26, 2018 - 11:18 pm

Reinhold Matay/USA Today Sports

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Over the 27 days between games for Rob Gronkowski, a lot was said about his play and future — most of which was negative.

He’s slow. He’s not the same player he once was. Bill Belichick was right about wanting to trade him. He’s not worth the money. This is his last year as a member of the Patriots.

Before Sunday, the last time Gronkowski played in a game was Week 8 (Oct. 29) in Buffalo against the Bills. He then sat out the next two games with nagging ankle and back injuries heading into the bye week before returning to action in the Patriots’ 27-13 win against the Jets.

Gronkowski played 69-of-70 snaps and finished with three catches for 56 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown on a vintage Gronk catch in the first quarter.

There’s no question Gronkowski was not back to 100 percent, but was that ever even a possibility? 

The 29-year-old has gone through so much over the years, and it seems like more than has been led on just to get back on the field this year.

“The guy’s been through a lot over the course of his career,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said after the game. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be here for the entirety of it. He’s a special guy who’s really busted his butt to do everything that he can to help this football team. He’s had a lot of adversity and every time adversity comes he steps up to the challenge and finds a way to meet it.”

The All-Pro’s impact goes beyond catching passes, which was shown Sunday.

Gronkowski is also a prolific blocker, as he helped pave the way for a season-high 215 yards rushing, and also the most since 2014. His presence also allowed for other players to get open easier, as Tom Brady completed passes to eight different receivers.

His blocking is something that gets overlooked, but not to his teammates.

“Rob does a great job for us,” center David Andrews said Monday. “Anytime he’s in there, he does a really good job. He’s a great blocker, too, as much as he can run and do the catches, like you see yesterday. It’s kind of overshadowed, I think at times, is how effective he can be as a run blocker.”

Gronkowski also has a special personality and his enthusiasm rubs off on the rest of the team unlike any other player perhaps in the entire league.

“He brings a unique energy, a unique vibe to our football team,” Slater said. “His role on this team, it’s really hard to describe how important he is to our team, not only on the field, but in the locker room. Big to have him out there.”

Even at less than 100 percent, he’s still incredibly valuable to the team.

This brings us to next year where he will have a cap hit of $12 million and if he elects to play another season, the Patriots will have a decision to make. He could play out the year under his current deal, be asked to take a pay cut, or flat out be released.

There is a very real chance these are final few months Gronkowski has in a Patriot uniform, and a player like him will likely never come around again. 

Besides what he does on the field, just look at what he does off it.

Even playing for the Patriots and dealing with everything that comes with it, he’s still managed to be one of the most personable players in the NFL. What other Patriots player in recent memory has been almost must-listen each time he speaks either at his locker or at the podium because you just don’t know what he’s going to say?

Also, there may not be a more charitable player on the team. Less than 24 hours after returning to the field, Gronkowski was at Gillette Stadium meeting with four kids with Make-a-Wish. This is a common occurrence, as the tight end is always looking for charity work, whether it gets recognized or not.

While the majority of the discussion surrounding Gronkowski of late has been negative, what will happen when he’s gone? No one really seems to be wanting to discuss that very real possibility.

So, take some time to appreciate the big fella. You’ll be thankful you did when he’s one day gone.

Related: What Bill Belichick told Patriots in locker room following win over Jets

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