USA Today Sports

Patriots players rave about Rob Gronkowski’s return: ‘He’s probably the best tight end ever to suit up’

Ryan Hannable
November 25, 2018 - 6:50 pm

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Due to nagging back and ankle injuries, for the first time in 27 days Rob Gronkowski was on the game field with his Patriots teammates.

It didn’t take long for him to make his presence felt, as he had a 34-yard touchdown grab over several Jets defenders that tied the game at seven in the first quarter.

“I think those are certain ones where Gronk is probably the only tight end in the league that can make that play,” quarterback Tom Brady said of the catch.

The Patriots went onto win the game, 27-13, and Gronkowski finished with three catches on seven targets for 56 yards and a touchdown.

But, his impact went beyond his personal production — he made the entire offense better.

"There’s a lot of eyes going to him,” Julian Edelman said. “He’s probably the best tight end ever to suit up. Anytime he's on the field he is going to attract attention and it helps everyone."

After a seven-catch, 123-yard performance against the Texans in Week 1, Gronkowski hasn’t really looked himself on the field because of injuries, and it carried off the field when he seemed frustrated and not having fun.

The rest of the team was glad to see the Gronkowski of old on Sunday.

"He's the Gronk," Edelman said. "It's always good to have him back. He looked like he was having fun and that's awesome. That's what we want."

“He brings a unique energy, a unique vibe to our football team,” special teams captain Matthew Slater added. “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.”

For Gronkowski himself, it almost looked like there was some weight taken off his shoulders by returning to the field and contributing.

“It felt good,” he said. “I’ve just been putting the work in the last couple of weeks, whatever it was, to get back and now I just feel like I can keep on improving week in week out now and do what I need to do to help the team. It felt good to be back out there and it was a good win overall.”

If Gronkowski can stay on the field and perform like he did Sunday, the Patriots should feel good about their chances when it comes to a deep run in January.

Related: Patriots saw Sunday's game vs. Jets as 'must-win'