Hannable: Rob Gronkowski working with Tom Brady’s trainer likely beginning of a few changes for tight end

Ryan Hannable
August 02, 2017 - 10:55 pm

Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

FOXBORO — Tom Brady will turn 40 years old Thursday as he gets set to play his 18th NFL season. It’s virtually impossible Rob Gronkowski will ever play that long, but the 28-year-old is beginning to take steps in order to extend his playing career, taking a tip from Brady himself.

The 6-foot-6, 265-pound tight end has adopted Brady’s workout and diet plan, courtesy of Brady’s personal trainer Alex Guerrero. It was a no brainer for Gronkowski.

“I look at [Brady] and he turns 40 tomorrow and he runs around like he’s younger than me. So it’s pretty obvious right there,” he said after practice on Wednesday, while acknowledging his body already feels different.

The way Gronkowski plays on the field and lives his life off the field just isn't conducive to having a long NFL career, and he realized it.

“I mean being young – I mean as you get older you start feeling it more, for sure,” he said. “I remember I was 21 at one point, when I was 22, first [and] second year in the league, I could just go home and I used to just not really do anything. But now as you get older, it just felt like it was that time in my career where I just really needed to focus on it and go to the next level or else I could’ve possibly been out of the door. So just wanted to take it to the next level and keep on going.”

While there’s nothing wrong with the way Gronkowski has lived his life, it’s just not sustainable for him in order to play much past 30. People forget, Brady wasn’t always into resistance bands and avocado ice cream. He lived a life in his early-to-mid 20s like Gronkowski does now, but once he hit his late 20s he too realized a change in direction was needed. 

Now is the time for Gronkowski to change his lifestyle in order to stay in the NFL as long as he possibly can.

This may not be the only change we start to see in the big tight end. 

Perhaps the way he’s used on the field could be adjusted a bit beginning this year, his eighth in the NFL. 

A lot of the routes the Patriots have Gronkowski run put him in vulnerable positions. The route he runs most is the seam route over the middle the field, which he and Brady have mastered, but it also puts him at a high risk of taking a big shot from a safety. Just look at what happened last season against the Seahawks and Earl Thomas delivered a good shot to him, which appeared to linger for a few weeks.

It may be time for the Patriots offense to dial back on those routes, especially early in the season. Maybe in big games the Patriots can open the playbook up for him, but until the postseason it might be in the Patriots’ best interest to limit the big shots he takes.

Gronkowski can still be used in different ways. He could be utilized more as a blocker, which he’s already considered one of the better blocking tight ends in the league. He also could run more safe routes — more out routes to the sidelines, fade routes at the goal line, go routes down the field, routes that do not involve a lot of contact after the catch. 

It seems like the tight end isn’t as big as he was in some past camps, and perhaps dropping a few pounds could help him with these things. Over the years he has focused on getting bigger and bigger, but that made his body stiff and more prone to injuries. The new workout regimen should make him more flexible and therefore maybe less prone to injury. 
Given his new contract structure for this year (different tiers based on performance), it was even more incentive for Gronkowski to change his ways to ensure he stays on the field. The more he’s on the field, the more he produces and the more money he gets. 

If not for Brady the Patriots organization wouldn’t have a lot of things, and now Gronkowski’s long-term future in the NFL can likely be added to that long list.