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Rob Gronkowski is ready to ‘dig in big’ for the start of the season

09.02.12 at 1:33 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Ever since that “Hail Mary” pass from Tom Brady fell just out of his reach at the end of Super Bowl XLVI, Rob Gronkowski has been looking forward to this week.

His left ankle has been repaired and healed, he has a six-year, $53 million extension and now, he’s ready to try and put up an encore to the best season ever posted by an NFL tight end.

‘€œDefinitely anxious,” Gronkowski said Sunday morning in front of his locker. “I’€™m always excited to get the season started. Tennessee is a good opponent. First game of the season, always get the jitters, always ready to go and always excited for the game to come.

‘€œCollege football started this week and it was exciting watching all that and it just gets you more excited for the game to come.’€

Gronkowski caught an NFL-record 17 touchdowns and ran for another in amassing 1,397 yards last season as Tom Brady‘s most-productive target. But all of that doesn’t matter now to him. All that matters is getting ready for the 2012 season opener Sunday in Nashville, Tenn. against the Titans.

‘€œYes, you dig in big, physically, mentally, everything,” he said. “You’€™re getting ready. It’€™s game-time now. This is what counts. This is what starts the season is this game. Everything from here on out matters.’€

The release of veteran wide receiver Deion Branch on Friday caught many by surprise, including those inside the Patriots locker room like Gronkowski.

‘€œThat shows the business side of the NFL and it’€™s always tough to see your friends go,” Gronkowski said Sunday. “Your friends, people who were your mentors, guys you look up to and it’€™s tough seeing them go. It’€™s part of the business but at the same time, you wish them the best of luck and hopefully everything works out for everyone that you see go. It’€™s definitely a tough time.

‘€œHe’€™s just a great guy overall. He taught so much on the field, how to practice, how to stay motivated out there, how to do the rep right so we don’€™t have to repeat it. He’€™s a great guy, always love talking to him and will always be in touch with him.’€

Gronkowski is entering his third NFL season and he said Sunday that Branch was one of the veterans who helped him and others in the Patriots passing games. The passing attack now features Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker, with a third receiver likely not to play as prominent of a role as in past seasons.

‘€œI think of that on days like last Friday when you see people go,” Gronkowski said. “Man, that could be me one day so it’€™s definitely the business side of the NFL and you just have to keep working hard every week, keeping working out, keep practicing hard, keep doing what you have to do so you can stay around.

‘€œIt just shows it’€™s pretty crazy seeing your friends go but that’€™s last week now and just focus on the game now, Tennessee. Just going to be preparing hard, mentally, physically getting ready.’€

Read More: Gronk, New England Patriots, nfl, Rob Gronkowski
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