The post-Super Bowl period felt murkier than most offseasons in New England—Josh McDaniels left and then didn’t; rumors circulated about strains in the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick relationship (and Brady skipping OTAs); Rob Gronkowski mulled retirement; Julian Edelman was suspended for performance enhancers. But when the Patriots open training camp on Thursday, all the distractions will blow over. (Right?) The 2018 season is upon us, and Belichick, Brady, Gronkowski and crew are once again defending an AFC title and eyeing the Super Bowl. We talked with Gronk about his offseason, his expectations for this year, and his dirty laundry.
THE MMQB: The Patriots got so close to yet another Super Bowl title last season, but ultimately came up just short. What is the process, mentally, to recover from the letdown of a Super Bowl defeat?
ROB GRONKOWSKI: You have to put everything behind you. We worked our tail off to get to that point. But now it’s a new season. It’s a new time to build. A new time to get out there with your teammates, starting with training camp this week, and rebuild a foundation. It’s great to learn all the new guys on the team, get the chemistry going. A lot of guys leave, we got a lot of new players, free agency, the draft—it’s all about what’s coming up. It’s all about rebuilding. Rebuilding the chemistry with your new teammates, and going out on the field and enjoying playing football.
THE MMQB: The biggest storyline this offseason for you was of course about you debating the possibility of retiring. How serious was that consideration, and what ultimately went into your decision to return for another season?
GRONKOWSKI: I was seeing how I was recovering, how my body was feeling. Taking a little break mentally and physically from the game. Just seeing how I felt and seeing if I wanted to do it another year and if I was able to endure another season. That was the main thing. I feel like I’m ready to go, physically and mentally.
THE MMQB: For a guy who plays the game as physical as anyone and has sustained some significant injuries, how does your body feel now going into your ninth season?
GRONKOWSKI: I really can’t give a ranking how I feel compared to other seasons. It’s a long season. You have to endure all the practices, all the games. Every day you are trying to feel the best you can to be out there with your teammates. You always want to feel good. I just feel good. Just ready to start back up.
THE MMQB: Was that the same rationale behind why you sat out Patriots voluntary workouts in May?
GRONKOWSKI: Yeah, keep the body fresh and mentally and physically take a little break, off the body, off the mind. See where I was at. Now I am definitely ready to get back to football and play the game.
THE MMQB: James Harrison had a quote recently that all of the “friction” around the Patriots this offseason was made up in order to get the team to become closer together, to build stronger bonds. Was he onto something with that?
GRONKOWSKI: He’s definitely onto something. But I feel like you have to give him a call. Everyone sees everything different. I can’t speak for him or explain what he meant.
THE MMQB: There has been a lot of this so-called “friction” around the team this offseason, different rumors and reports. Do you feel like there have been more issues than usual this year, or that it’s the same as it always is, and the media has been giving more attention to it this year?
GRONKOWSKI: I feel like it’s the same every year. You just block out those distractions. I have to focus on what I can control and what I can do. Just try to be the best player I can be, help the team out however I can help out. Block out all the noise.
THE MMQB: At this point in your career where you have already established yourself as one of the best tight ends of all time, what do you focus on when you say you want to improve?
GRONKOWSKI: It’s just learning the game of football. There is no such thing as knowing too much. There are so many plays, so many coverages. You just want to learn the game of football, to learn as much as you can. There’s always a growing curve for that, every single year. Also, make your strengths stronger, work on them, keep them strong. And your weaknesses on the field, I’ll try to work on those so my weaknesses don’t get exposed.
THE MMQB: I know Tom likes to get guys out on the field away from the team in the offseason..
GRONKOWSKI: Who’s Tom??
THE MMQB: Your quarterback
GRONKOWSKI: Oh! I thought you meant Tom and Jerry… Yeah, we get together every single year. He’s been doing that before I was in the NFL. He was doing it when he was 25 and I was two years old.
THE MMQB: Well, how is Tom looking these days? He is coming up on 41 years old.
GRONKOWSKI: He looks good. He looks the same as when I first got there, which is unbelievable. His work ethic is second to none. It’s just unreal, what he’s been accomplishing, how he’s still going and how he looks.
THE MMQB: What’s something about Tom— Tom Brady, to be clear— that we don’t know.
GRONKOWSKI: He’s got nice skin. That’s why he still looks young—he’s got nice skin. He’s 41, he don’t look 41.
THE MMQB: With all the retirement stuff, there were reports when you came back that you’d play only as long as Tom did. Were those true?
GRONKOWSKI: I don’t even think I saw that. There’s a lot of stuff that comes out—I can’t keep up with it all. If I try to keep up with it all, that means I’m reading into stuff and it’s making me worse.
THE MMQB: We’ve seen other NFL dynasties splinter in much shorter time periods. Why do you think the Patriots have managed to stay in tact for so long?
GRONKOWSKI: Put in the work. Hard work, dedication, always trying to get better. Moving on. And looking forward to the next game, next practice, next season, whatever it is. Work hard. Do your job.
THE MMQB: You once said you never spend any of your contract money, just what you make from sponsorships. You recently partnered with Tide and are shown doing your laundry. Do you really do your own laundry?
GRONKOWSKI: I always do my own laundry; I never let anyone else do it because I enjoy doing activities around my house. The partnership with Tide was a great fit. Great company to work with, love doing the commercials, and I’m having a blast with it.
THE MMQB: Danny Amendola left the team this offseason. You had an Instagram post where you wrote “Be HAPPY” and “Be FREE.” What did you mean by that.
GRONKOWSKI: That’s for the whole world. That would be amazing if the whole world was free and happy. I love life. Free and happy.
Question or comment? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.