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How Rob Gronkowski prepares for regular season without playing in preseason games 08.31.15 at 2:04 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski talked about getting ready for the regular season without playing in preseason games. (WEEI.com)

Rob Gronkowski talked about getting ready for the regular season without playing in preseason games. (WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Rob Gronkowski hasn’t played in a preseason game since 2012.

Whether it’s been the tight end coming off an injury the season prior, or the team just wanting him to stay healthy for the regular season, Gronkowski playing in the preseason simply isn’t worth it.

Since he isn’t getting preseason game reps, he still needs to get his body in game shape so he’s ready for Week 1. The tight end said it comes down to working hard and putting in extra time after practice.

“To get ready for the season, mentally and physically you have to be up on the playbook. You have to know your plays. During the meetings you need to know what you have to do when you step out on the field,” Gronkowski said. “The physical part, you have to be in the weight room when you have some time off to keep your muscles strong and work yourself hard. Push your body to the limit during camp and practice harder than the games. Go out there and do a little extra conditioning so when the season comes, it’s a long haul, your body is mentally and physically ready.”

It’s unlikely Gronkowski and many other starters play in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Giants.

The Patriots open the season Thursday, Sept. 10 at home against the Steelers. Playing their first regular season game on a Thursday night provides some challenges, according to coach Bill Belichick, but Gronkowski said it will just be like a regular week for him.

“I’ve never played a Thursday night game opening up so I kind of feel like it won’t change my preparation at all because I know it’s the first game of the season for myself,” he said. “I just have to go out there the days leading up to the game and prepare for the game like any other time.”

In the third preseason game the Patriots lost fullback James Develin to a reported broken tibia — a player Gronkowski called the team’s “thumper.”

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Fantasy Football: Tight end rankings 08.28.15 at 1:14 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski hasn't had to worry about rehabbing this offseason. (Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski is in a class of his own among tight ends. (Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

This week we are taking a look at the tight ends for fantasy purposes. I’ve broken down the top 32 options and placed them into tiers as I did with the quarterbacks and wide receivers. I’ll be back next week with the running backs. If you can’t wait until next week, don’t worry. You can check out my full top 500 rankings at Rotobahn right now.

As Jim Hackett and I said on Thursday’s Fantasy Football Podcast, there are not a lot of tight ends who you can really count on, but there are a bevy of options with potential. The key to drafting tight ends in 2015 is knowing how to tell the two apart and avoiding the duds. I’ll endeavor to guide you through that in this article.

If this is your first dose of preseason fantasy football at weei.com, here are some links to what you’ve missed.

Jim and I will be back on Sunday morning, as usual, so tune in to 93.7 and catch the entire hour starting at 8 a.m. I hope you can join us! To keep tabs on all my preseason fantasy football content including all rankings and cheat sheet updates, follow me on Twitter.

Tier 1

Rob Gronkowski, Patriots (1)

Do I need to say anything here? He’s the best, and he’s got a Hall of Famer throwing him the football. Gronkowski also is as healthy as we’ve seen him in years — coming off of a surgery-free offseason. He’s the biggest no-brainer in the 2015 positional rankings — outclassing the field and even Jimmy Graham by several lengths.

Tier 2

Jimmy Graham, Seahawks (2)

Maybe the only tight end who has Gronk-like upside, Graham has posted elite numbers in the past and is a red zone beast. He is going to a less-pass-happy offense than the one he’s used to, but he’ll be the best weapon Russell Wilson has ever had, and I suspect they will hook up often. Graham is the easy choice once Gronkowski is off the board at tight end.

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Read More: Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce
7 things we’re looking for in Friday’s Patriots-Panthers preseason game at 12:23 am ET
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How should the Patriots split the reps at QB Friday night?  (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

How should the Patriots split the reps at QB Friday night? (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Here are seven things we’ll be looking for Friday night when the Patriots meet the Panthers in the third preseason game for both teams:

1. How the reps are split at quarterback:

Nine of the last 10 times the Patriots took the field for the third preseason game of the summer, Tom Brady was at quarterback deep into the contest. (He sat out the third preseason game in 2008 entirely.) For the record, over those nine appearances, he finished with an average line of 15-for-22, 179 yards, 1.4 TDs, .33 INT and 40.5 snaps, with the bulk of the work coming over the first two-plus quarters. But with Brady’s status for the regular-season opener still unclear, there has to be some thought given to the idea of having Jimmy Garoppolo get more snaps than usual Friday with an eye toward making sure he’s ready for opening night against the Steelers if need be. From this viewpoint, the cautious play would be to have Brady start the game, but yield at roughly the 30-snap mark, depending on the offensive rhythm at that point in the evening. That way, Brady still gets in his needed work, but Garoppolo gets a little more activity than usual in advance of the regular-season opener.

For the record, here’s Brady’s workload and production in the third preseason game over the last 10 years:

2014: 17-for-21, 204 yards, two touchdowns, 42 snaps vs. Panthers
2013: 16-for-24, 185 yards, one interception, two sacks, 46 snaps vs. Lions
2012: 13-for-20, 127 yards, one touchdown, one interception, two sacks, 45 snaps vs. Bucs
2011: 12-for-22, 145 yards, one touchdown, one interception, two sacks, 37 snaps vs. Lions
2010: 18-for-22, 273 yards, three touchdowns, 30 snaps vs. Rams
2009: 12-for-19 for 150 yards, two touchdowns, one sack, 29 snaps vs. Redskins
2008: DNP
2007: 17-for-22, 167 yards, two touchdowns, 47 snaps vs. Panthers
2006: 17-for-30, 231 yards, one touchdown, 49 snaps vs. Redskins
2005: 12-for-21, 127 yards, one touchdown, one sack, 40 snaps vs. Packers

2. The third-down back competition:

This has been one of the best summer positional battles the Patriots have had in the last decade or so. Over the course of camp, the smart money appeared to be on Travaris Cadet, but he suffered an injury before the preseason schedule opened, and wasn’t heard from for a couple weeks. With that void, after Week 1 of the preseason, James White appeared to have the best shot at the job with a really nice outing against the Packers. But last week against the Saints, Dion Lewis really flashed positively, so much so that he looked to be in command. Now, who knows? Cadet needs to stay healthy if he wants to stay in the race, but it was hard not to look at the White/Lewis duo over the first two weeks of the preseason and imagine a combo role while White grows into the job on a full-time basis a year or two down the road, a la Shane Vereen.

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Read More: Brandon LaFell, Cam Newton, Devin McCourty, Dion Lewis
Rob Gronkowski on D&C: ‘I’m ready to play when my number’s called’ 08.24.15 at 9:55 am ET
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Tight end Rob Gronkowski joined the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to discuss the Patriots’ preparations for the season and the team’s decision to have him stay on the sideline during preseason games. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The oft-injured Gronkowski did not play in Saturday’s victory over the Saints in New Orleans, extending his streak of preseason DNPs to 11.

“It’s always up to the coach’s decision,” he said. “I’m ready to play when my number’s called, whenever they want me to go in. I mean, it is preseason, we’ve been practicing hard, we’ve been going vs. each other, we had great practices with the Saints, it’s been going well.”

Added Gronkowski on not playing in the preseason: “It is what it is. I don’t really mind that. … It’s always nice to get one [game in], but also practice is good, too. If you’re going full speed and you’re competing hard in practice, that can get you super ready, too, for Week 1.”

When he does get on the field, Gronkowski acknowledged that even though “I like the hitting, I like the smashing,” there are occasions when it’s wiser for him to avoid taking another blow to his body.

“I’m never trying to shy away from contact, but there’s definitely times where maybe you want to step out of bounds where it’s just something where you just know you’re going to get hit by three guys or you can just make a little step out of bounds and save your body from that hit,” he said, adding: “Every once in a while you can definitely step out of the way just to save a hit or two on you.”

Off the field, Gronkowski is known for his partying ways. However, when asked about his sex life, he joked that he’s got something in common with Tim Tebow. Said Gronkowski: “I’m a virgin.”

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Read More: Deflategate, Jimmy Garoppolo, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady
Big week for Rob Gronkowski, Master Thespian 08.21.15 at 3:45 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski appeared in two ads that popped up on the Internet in the last 24 hours. First, the Patriots tight end is part of the epic new “Madden 16″ commercial playing “Half Top.”

In addition, he goes all Ultimate Warrior with a BODYARMOR commercial.

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Rob Gronkowski is loving life in hot summer sun: ‘I’m just feeling good’ 08.17.15 at 6:39 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski hasn't had to worry about rehabbing this offseason. (Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski hasn’t had to worry about rehabbing this offseason. (Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Rob Gronkowski must have been one of those players Bill Belichick was referencing when he said before Monday’s practice there are certain players that don’t need as much conditioning in the hot summer sun.

Gronk was in full beast mode during practice Monday and loving every minute of the two-hour workout in the sun.

“I’m just feeling good, coming out here every day, just getting through the grind of practice. Hot days, a lot of reps and just coming out here with the team and working to get better,” Gronk said with a big, wide smile.

While Gronk was pretty much all smiles Monday with hordes of media around him again, he admitted one thing was starting to get under his skin.

“Can’t wait until Tom starts talking,” Gronkowski said of Tom Brady, who has not spoken publicly since talking to Jim Gray after the Wells Report came out in early May. “I’m waiting, too.”

Gronk is also waiting to get into his first preseason game as he did not play a single snap of last Thursday’s 22-11 loss to the Packers at Gillette Stadium. If Brady plays Saturday night in New Orleans, there’s a chance Gronk could, too.

Gronkowski said during OTAs and minicamp in June that felt it an “honor” to be able to practice with his team year round. He repeated that sentiment Monday.

“Yes, for sure. It’s definitely an honor just to come out to camp and be part of the Patriots organization and come out and just participate with the team throughout the whole time and get better as a player and come out and do what I’ve got to do to help the team,” he said.

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Read More: 2015 Patriots Training Camp, Gronk, New England Patriots, new orleans saints
Rob Gronkowski says Tom Brady ‘gets us fighting through’ training camp fatigue 08.07.15 at 10:05 pm ET
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FOXBORO — There was a rare sight of Rob Gronkowski going over the middle Friday afternoon during practice and dropping a pass from Tom Brady, a ball that hit him right in the hands.

About 25 minutes later, Brady was moving in the pocket, stepped up and threw a ball at the feet of Gronkowski.

The two plays were symbolic of an inconsistent day for the offense. It was also a day that Brady the quarterback became Brady the motivator as the offense looked sluggish at times. Late in practice, Brady was up around the ball and the rest of his offensive unit was lagging behind in a huddle.

Brady stepped into the huddle and provided a little inspiration and motivation.

“Yeah, he always has fresh legs,” Gronkowski joked about the fatigue that appeared to settle in a bit on Friday. “He definitely is our leader and he motivates us and that’s what’s great about working with him because he’s always competing out there on the football field. He gets us fighting through. He can tell sometimes when we’re a little tired and he gets us to push it through. That’s what great about having competitive players on our team. On offense, we’re all trying to pick each other up and make each other better football players.

“When you’re getting tired, you’ve got to put the focus in, the mental work in and physical work in, too. But, you’ve just got to grind through it.”

Another player who motivated Gronkowski Friday was across the line of scrimmage. Safety Patrick Chung engaged in several battles with Gronk off the line, something the tight end embraced.

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Read More: 2015 Patriots Training Camp, New England Patriots, nfl, Patrick Chung
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