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Tom Brady explains how Rob Gronkowski ‘has grown up a lot over the last 5 years’ 12.17.14 at 4:23 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady have been on the same page since Gronkowski arrived in 2010. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady have been on the same page since Gronkowski arrived in 2010. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Like everybody who watches the Patriots, Tom Brady has seen the fun-loving side of Rob Gronkowski on and off the field.

But Brady also gets a chance to see the more mature side of the Patriots all-world tight end. On Wednesday, Brady said he’s seen his 6-foot-6, 250-pound tight end mature into one of the hardest workers on the team.

“He’€™s grown up a lot over the last five years,” Brady said. “It’€™s been a lot of fun to see it. His football IQ and understanding of what it takes to be a professional and consistently and dependably be that type of player for our offense that he’€™s become, has been fun to see. He’€™s got the size advantage, the speed advantage, and he’€™s really becoming so aware out there of different coverages and things they’€™re trying to do to stop him.

“Now, after this time, he and I are really getting on the same page with a lot of things that are adjustments to adjustments to adjustments and that type of thing. It’€™s just been great playing with him. He’€™s a huge part of our offense, really gets us going. He’€™s a threat on third down, he’€™s a threat in the red area, he’€™s a threat on big plays any time in the game. He’€™s a great player.”

What Gronkowski doesn’t always get credit for is his attention to detail in practice and in games. Part of that comes from spending time together after practice and some of it comes from the time Gronk puts in on his own.

“Yeah, it’€™s a lot of communication. After practice and so forth, we do a lot of things after practice with a lot of guys and you’€™re always trying to work on things that you didn’€™t maybe get a chance to work on during practice,” Brady said. “Gronk typically gets a lot of balls in practice, so it’€™s usually for a lot of the other guys who don’€™t usually get a lot of balls in practice.

“But he’€™s always there willing to work on whatever he needs to work on for us to be a better team. Whether that’€™s a new type of route or a new type of concept that we’€™re trying to run, that’€™s what you’€™re trying to do. You’€™re trying to get on the same page so you can really anticipate each other and then you can make those plays that end up being really critical. We’€™ve had a bunch of them this year. The little things always become big things, and to identify what those little things are and make corrections before you get to the game day is what’€™s really important.”

Read More: Gronk, New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady
Rob Gronkowski suffers ‘nothing more than a charley horse’ in running over Dolphins 12.14.14 at 11:22 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It was a hit that brought back many horrible memories for Patriots fans.

On second-and-4 at the Miami 41, Tom Brady hit Rob Gronkowski on his third big seam route of the second half, good for 35 yards down to the Dolphins 6. But the bigger hit on the play came from Dolphins safety Jimmy Wilson. He came in like T.J. Ward did in Nov. 2013 and hit Gronkowski just above his surgically repaired right knee.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft was one of the first to visit Gronk after the game at his locker. Gronk assured the concerned owner, “It’s just a charley horse,” Gronkowski said in a smiling, assuring manner.

Later, the tight end added to, “it was just a stinger on the thigh. Get them all the time.”

Brady opened the second half with a 34-yard connection to Gronkowski on a seam route. The play was big for several reasons. It was Gronkowski’s first catch. It put Gronkowski over 1,000 yards on the season and it was a play that appeared to finally give the Patriots some offensive rhythm. Gronkowski was held without a catch on just two targets in the first half.

“Just got to start off with just one play, just one play to get the drive going and get the first down and get going and start clicking from there,” Gronkowski said. “It just takes one play at a time, do what you got to do, and just keep on going from there.”

The first offensive play after a interception by Patrick Chung, it was Brady again on a seam to Gronkowski for 27 yards and a touchdown.

“It was a good throw by Tom, good protection, and just a little play action and I just had a seam route, so I just ran up the seam and Tom had a nice pass and we just completed [it] and scored,” Gronkowski said. “It was just good execution as a whole on offense.”

Gronkowski, like everyone else on the field, had an opinion on Brady’s 17-yard scramble on third-and-11 on the first drive of the second half.

“€œI kind of saw it. I was out there,” Gronk said. “It was a nice run, so you got to give props to him and he made a very nice play to get the first down and we eventually scored on that drive, so huge props to Brady on that run, it was huge.”

Gronkowski said he doesn’t often see Brady take off, even in practice, but he’ll take it.

“Whatever it comes down to win he’€™ll do, so he saw the opening, he ran, and, what was it for ‘€“ 17 ‘€“yards and a first down? That was huge,” Gronkowski said. “Huge props to him and he does anything to win.”

Gronkowski finished with those three catches on eight targets for a touchdown and 96 yards in the 41-13 AFC East-clinching win. It wasn’t a monster game but Robert Kraft and the rest of the Patriots will take the tight end getting through the game healthy as a nice tradeoff.

Read More: Gronk, Jimmy Kelly, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots
With a sixth straight division in his sights, Tom Brady explains why winning AFC East ‘never gets old’ 12.10.14 at 4:14 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady has the chance to make some history on Sunday.

And while Bill Belichick indicated Tuesday that he’s not going to spend more than “15 seconds” discussing the matter with the team, it still would mean something special to the Patriots quarterback to join Terry Bradshaw and Fran Tarkenton to lead their teams to six straight division titles since the merger.

“Coach hasn’€™t mentioned that,” Brady said Wednesday, the day when Belichick usually lays out the theme of the week. “Normally he has. You’€™re playing for a division championship, so it’€™s a very important game. We’€™ve worked really hard to get to this point. The guys have put a lot of work in over the whole offseason and to put ourselves in this position has been a lot of fun, but we’€™ve got to go out there and capitalize. This is a tough team to do it against. They’€™ve got some goals that they have, too, and I think that’€™s what makes for a great game is when both teams are determined to win, and only one team can win.”

The reason Belichick hasn’t mentioned it to Brady or the team is presumably because the goals are much, much bigger. But as Brady mentioned, there’s also the matter of the rest of the season. Belichick and Brady want to build momentum toward the end of the season, with a division title simply being a byproduct.

“Well, it’€™s a long season, and we’€™ve still got three games left,” Brady said. “There is a lot of football to be played. There are a lot of things to be decided. The only thing that matters is this week. That’€™s the only thing we can control. We’€™re going to go out there and try to control it the best we can, try to go out there and play the way that we’€™re capable of and see if we can have a great day of execution and certainly better than we’€™ve had the last two weeks.”

The division may be taken for granted many around the league and by Patriots fans. But to Brady, a division hat and t-shirt day never gets old.

“Absolutely not. I think we’€™re trying to win every time we take the field,” Brady said. “Winning never gets old, I know that. That feeling that we had the other night was a great feeling, and that’€™s what motivates you to win because you know the opposite side of that. We’€™ve got to do the things that help us win as opposed to do the things that make us lose games. It should be a fun week.

Belichick gave the Patriots Monday and Tuesday off after Sunday’s win in San Diego. This is done usually with the words, ‘€˜see you on Wednesday.’€™ In theory, it means you a couple days off. But to Brady it’s really not complete reality.

“It’€™s just that time of the year,” Brady said. “I don’€™t think there are any off days ‘€“ maybe in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, but not necessarily in a quarterback’€™s preparation. I do a lot of work, and I enjoy it, so that’€™s the easy part. I get to do something I love to do.”

So when asked at the start of the press conference if he were over jet lag from San Diego, the answer was easy.

“Yeah, this is a big week, so you’€™ve got to get over it quick,” Brady said.

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Read More: Gronk, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Tom Brady
‘Sexy’ Rob Gronkowski purrs like a kitten for ESPN The Mag at 10:30 am ET
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Rob Gronkowski poses for a cover shoot of the latest edition of ESPN The Magazine. (ESPN Magazine/Twitter)

Rob Gronkowski poses for a cover shoot of the latest edition of ESPN The Magazine. (ESPN Magazine/Twitter)

FOXBORO — Not that he needed to but Rob Gronkowski is once again proving he is the most fun-loving football star in the NFL.

Good thing he’s 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds of pure rock or he would be laughed out of the locker room for his latest photo shoot and feature for ESPN The Magazine.

In it, Gronkowski poses with a cute little kitten on his right shoulder in one photo, while wearing a smile and chomping down on a bracelet that reads “Sexy” in another. ESPN tweeted out 10 pictures from the recent photo shoot that will accompany a feature story on the superstar who, on Sunday night in San Diego, became the first tight end in NFL history with four seasons of double-digit touchdown receptions.

Gronk has 73 catches for 997 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. He has not missed a single regular season game after tearing his ACL in Nov. 2013 when Cleveland’s T.J. Ward took him out at the knees.

The Patriots tight end will be on the cover of the latest issue of the magazine, due out this Friday.

This is not the first time Gronk has graced the cover of The Mag. Back in July 2012, he bared it all for “The Body” issue, ESPN’s equivalent of the “SI Swimsuit” edition.

No doubt, some of his teammates will be tempted to tease him in the locker room this week.

Read More: ESPN The Magazine, Gronk, Rob Gronkowski,
Tim Wright was ready for his ‘opportunity’ when Lions doubled Rob Gronkowski 11.23.14 at 7:15 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Pick your poison. The Lions chose to double Rob Gronkowski often on Sunday in the red zone. That part worked but the Patriots killed the Lions with a heavy dose of Tim Wright, who caught a pair of touchdowns, including one where Tom Brady had no choice to but to throw it to him.

Wright caught a 4-yard TD pass over the middle in the first quarter as the Patriots took the lead for good. In the second quarter, Wright caught a pass in the end zone when there wasn’t a Lion within 10 yards of him.

Wright admitted after the Patriots’ 34-9 win Sunday that he was grateful for the attention Gronk drew, leaving him in single coverage or no coverage at all.

“We both work hard and try to play off of each other,” Wright said. “However the dice may fall, however the defense plays it, who doubles who, the other guy just has to be ready for the opportunity. That’€™s what we pride ourselves on.”

Wright caught three more passes in the second half but none for touchdowns and finished with just 36 yards receiving. But it was the red zone where Wright made it matter most.

“The Lions have a great defense all around,” Wright said. “We knew going into that game that whatever that role is, we had to stick to it and that’€™s what we had to utilize for that game. We did a great job. The [offensive] line held up great. Tom delivered. He does what he does all the time, and just the receivers getting open and doing their job.”

This was particularly important going in since the Lions fearsome front seven figured to rush the quarterback at all costs.

“We knew timing was critical going into it and the offensive line did a great job all week of sticking together and creating a scheme to defeat their d-line, defeat the pass rush. Give Tom time to deliver the ball, that’€™s what he did, and the receivers on the perimeter ran great routes and we got it done.”

Wright caught his fifth and sixth touchdowns of the season, a new career best, making that trade of Logan Mankins look better and better as the season goes on.

“It’€™s definitely rewarding,” Wright said. “Like I said, every phase of the ball is important to this game that we play. As long as everyone works hard during the week, it will pay off on Sunday.”

Read More: detroit lions, Gronk, New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski
Chuck Pagano thinks Rob Gronkowski makes Patriots ‘more of a nightmare’ 11.12.14 at 8:58 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski could be a scary sight for the Colts Sunday night. (Mike Petraglia/

Rob Gronkowski could be a scary sight for the Colts Sunday night. (Mike Petraglia/

FOXBORO — Bill Belichick won’t admit it. Tom Brady will just smile in gratitude. And Rob Gronkowski certainly won’t acknowledge it. But the best tight end in football is a nightmare matchup for any opponent, especially one that has had difficulty defending much-lesser tight ends this season.

But Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was more than willing to detail just what kind of problem Gronkowski presents for his Colts this Sunday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“Tom’€™s spreading the ball around, but Rob’€™s a matchup nightmare,” Pagano said. “It’€™s all hands on deck to try to make sure that that guy doesn’€™t wreck a game. You see everybody trying to do that, but he finds a way to make unbelievable plays. He’€™s a great player and they’€™ve got a bunch of them, a bunch of skill guys that are making great plays.”

How big a game could Gronkowski have? Consider tight end Julius Thomas caught three touchdowns – in the second quarter – of Denver’s 31-24 win on opening night. The next week, Philly’s Zach Ertz had four catches for 87 yards. Against the Steelers in Week 8, Heath Miller had seven catches for 112 yards and a touchdown.

What is Gronk expecting?

“They’re a very good team and we have to prepare to our max and we have to be ready for the game,” Gronkowski said, keeping everything cautiously vague. “We have to come out and perform to our best because, if not, they’re a very good team and we could struggle easily versus them if we’re not going out there prepared. You have to be ready and go out and be prepared.

“They’ve got a lot of good skill players, good linebackers, safeties, corners and you just have to be prepared for anything at any time. You never know what you’re going to get so you have to be prepared and expect anything.”

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Read More: Chuck Pagano, Gronk, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots
Tom Brady calls Rob Gronkowski one-handed grab ‘one of the best catches I’ve ever seen’ 11.02.14 at 10:54 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The catch was so amazing that it was the first subject asked of Tom Brady after Sunday’s 43-21 beatdown of the Broncos at Gillette Stadium.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Patriots quarterback spotted his favorite target – Rob Gronkowski – over the middle. But he was open for just a flash. And adding to the difficulty, Brady put the ball in a place where it couldn’t be intercepted – behind Gronk’s head. No problem.

Gronkowski simply stopped, jumped, spun his body backward and stuck out his left hand and came down with the ball as he was falling backwards to the ground at the Denver 1. The catch was so stunning that linebacker Brandon Marshall, who was trailing the play, put his hands on top of his helmet when he saw Gronk come down with the ball.

“Incredible. That was one of the best catches I’€™ve ever seen,” Brady beamed in genuine awe. “It doesn’€™t get any better than that. I wish they’€™d have given him the touchdown. Then we came back on the next play ‘€“ it was a little bit easier the next one, but that was unbelievable.”

Gronk was, naturally humble speaking about it afterward.

“It was a pretty good catch,” Gronkowski said. “Tom put it where I could make that play, so it just happened. It’€™s just a reaction ‘€“ going to the ball, when you see the ball, you want to go for it, so it’€™s just a natural reaction to go get it, so it ended up being a one-handed, so it was pretty cool.

“It was a good catch, but you guys can do the rating of it, but [I’€™m] just trying to make plays and make as many as possible when my number is called.”

Gronkowski has never had a better five-game stretch in his career. He’s caught 36 passes (nine each in the last two) for 316 yards and five touchdowns.

Gronk’s reward after Bill Belichick‘s challenge for a touchdown failed? Brady went right back to him on a quick in-cut for a much simpler catch but more valuable, as the TD worth six points put the Patriots up, 43-21, and iced the game. Gronk made a tumbling one-handed grab for a touchdown in the Jan. 2012 playoffs against Tim Tebow and the Broncos. But Sunday’s grab was on another level.

“We had a chance to get him in a good matchup,” Brady said. “He made an incredible catch and I mean, I’€™ve never seen anything like that.”

Read More: Brandon Marshall, Denver Broncos, Gronk, New England Patriots
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