Look, it’s Gronk. And with Rob Gronkowski nothing has ever really mattered except he shows up ready to dominate and then dominates in ways no one else in football can.
Much of the rest of the time, it’s the Gronk Show. He either seeks to have a good time or realizes that acting like he is having a good time is what is expected of him. Companies even pay him for it. So, sometimes he tells jokes even when he doesn’t have any. Sometimes he plays the clown because he knows enough to play the hits.
You don’t get the 6-foot-6, 265-pound, third-down threat without the frivolity. That’s the deal and it’s been a tremendous one for the New England Patriots.
Gronk is also 28 years old and has been in the NFL for eight seasons, all of it under the tutelage of Bill Belichick. Which means Gronkowski’s decision Saturday to show up at Gillette Stadium, of all places, to conduct a promotional media conference for a Monster Energy AMA Supercross event and joke about skipping voluntary workouts and play coy about retiring was well … something.
Yes, Gronkowski is also sponsored by Monster Energy and has done these types of things in the past, most notably at the Daytona 500. That was in Daytona though. This was in Foxborough, where he is nothing but a question mark right now.
It could be considered as a clear shot across the bow of Belichick, who generally isn’t particularly tolerant of such things.
Put it this way, if – IF – Gronk wants to get traded, then other than demanding to be dealt or trashing the Patriots, this would have been about the best way to accomplishing the goal.
From a podium down the hall from the Patriots’ locker room he will not enter for upcoming voluntary workouts, Gronk was asked if he would attend the practices.
“No, I’ve got dirt-biking skills to work on.”
Asked if he was returning to the Patriots next season, he said it “depends on how my racing skills go today.”
Asked if he had anything to say to his fans, he did hint that he’d be in uniform, an NFL uniform, in the fall.
“They’re going to see a freek-a-leek when I come back,” he said.
So he’s coming back?
“Maybe,” he said laughing.
Look, again, it’s Gronk. All of this was a joke. He entered the room wearing a racing helmet. He isn’t going to start racing dirt bikes as a career. All of this was Gronk being Gronk.
But … really? Most people, myself included, don’t care too much about Gronkowski goofing around. Voluntary workouts are just that, voluntary. The day he shows up half a pound out of shape someone can worry about him. And if he wants to quit football and join the WWE or make movies, go for it.
That said, what the rest of us think doesn’t matter. What Belichick thinks does. Same with the rest of the New England Patriots.
Gronkowski, along with Tom Brady and center David Andrews, is an offensive captain for the Pats. As team building exercises go, having a captain laugh about not going to voluntary workouts doesn’t sound ideal.
Brady isn’t attending voluntary workouts either and also hasn’t publicly committed to returning to New England next season. Is Gronk just following Brady’s lead? Perhaps. The two are expected to work out together (with Julian Edelman and others) at Brady’s place in Montana.
Then again, Brady isn’t standing inside Gillette trying to make a gag out of the whole thing.
Does Belichick care about this? Who knows? He might hear about this as he drives his boat around Nantucket and shrug. It’s still a long way from the season.
This is also a long way from “Do Your Job” though.
Belichick wants to win. Brady wants to win. Gronkowski wants to win. No one can ever question that. They all know that the best chance of them winning is by winning together – the NFL’s best coach, the NFL’s reigning MVP and the NFL’s most unique offensive weapon. They also know their chances are dwindling, fast.
Gronkowski is trying the Patriots though. He’s putting it on Belichick. Whether that was on purpose or by accident perhaps only Gronk knows. You’d think he would have realized what the optics of this. This isn’t his first day on the job.
For Belichick, however, there may not be much he can do. Push too hard and Gronkowski calls it quits. He has taken a beating playing football, has more money than he ever dreamed he’d make and knows there is a lucrative post-NFL career for him in entertainment.
Gronkowski could be traded, but at what value? His impact on the field is undeniable, but he’s also prone to injuries and on the verge of retiring. At best another team gets, what, a year or two out of him, always uncertain if he’ll leave? Or maybe he gets shipped off and just decides to retire. What is that risk worth?
Maybe that’s why Gronkowski showed up and goofed off. He holds all the cards and isn’t afraid to let Belichick know that he knows it.
Or maybe he wasn’t thinking.
With Gronk, you never know.
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