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Opinion: Rob Gronkowski needs to change his act

02.05.13 at 11:32 am ET

We’ve reached intervention stage with Rob Gronkowski.

Now, that’s not meant to suggest we are dealing with an alcohol issue when it comes to the best tight end on the planet, though I suspect if he had been completely sober there’s a chance the video we’ve all seen on TMZ wouldn’t exist.

Before we get to the areas of concern, though, let’s be very clear about this: Rob Gronkowski, by every account, works incredibly hard, is a terrific teammate, has production off the charts, plays hurt, has done more than his share of charity and seems to truly enjoy being a professional football player in New England. The fact that there is no filter is a reason for his popularity. And that’s why people, by and large, are OK with all the extracurricular activities. Put it another way: If video surfaces of John Lackey dancing and wrestling at a club in Fort Myers sometime over the next couple of weeks there will be a very different reaction in this city (of course correctly so). Lackey being Lackey isn’t viewed as a good thing.

Also this: I didn’t care about Bibi Jones and whatever they did or not do in his or her bedroom or anywhere else. I’m pretty sure these were consenting adults, I’m not really interested in passing judgement in the (presumed) sexual activities of two single people doing nothing illegal. I thought it was a massively overblown story and absurd that Gronkowski felt the need to apologize to Bob Kraft.

And the dancing controversy after last the Super Bowl last year was equally ludicrous. This was an opportunity for a vocal minority in the media to act outraged over something that didn’t deserve a second glance. Gronkowski was clearly limited with an ankle injury in that game — he would have surgery on the ankle a week later — and deserved praise for trying to play through it, not scorn for failing to grieve about a loss in the way the way some would have liked to see. Do I think Rob Gronkowski was just as upset about the loss to the Giants as everyone else on that team? Yup. Did I care that he chose to blow off some steam by removing his shirt and dancing at a postgame party? I did not.

Now what happened in Las Vegas on Sunday night is different. Lots of times we don’t know what right or wrong is but lots of times we do, and what Gronkowski did on that stage was potentially damaging to the New England Patriots. Not the brand, not some image, not the Patriot Way, but the actual on-field product. Lifting a friend in the air and attempting wrestling moves (and that was a hideous DDT) is inviting further damage to a left arm that has been broken twice in the last three months. This isn’t taking a picture with a porn star or dancing a week before surgery, this is pure recklessness. Rob Gronkowski is a $54 million investment for the Patriots ($18 million guaranteed) and a massive part of the future of the franchise. This is a guy who could easily end up in Canton if he can stay healthy. So is there any upside to his actions in Las Vegas, does it make any sense for Gronkowski to risk another setback?

I’m all for Gronk being Gronk — all we in the media do is bash the Patriots for not having personality, for following every Belichick command, so it seems inconsistent that Gronkowski’s individualism is being criticized — but there are limits, and it was crossed in Las Vegas. The act has to change just a little, some tweaking is needed. That’s all, the world isn’t ending, no criminal acts were committed. It was a 23-year-old acting like a 23-year-old without a $54 million contract and all the serious responsibilities that go along with that deal.

So Bill Belichick or Bob Kraft or Tom Brady (maybe all three, who knows?) needs to have the talk with Gronkowski (I’m guessing he’s already had the other talk). The TMZ footage was the tipping point, plain and simple.

And the message should be this: Don’t put yourself or the New England Patriots in danger. Enjoy being a single, famous and rich 23-year-old, but don’t cross the line again.




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