The New England Patriots are going to miss recently retired Rob Gronkowski's impact on the field as one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history, but what he did for the team off the field also was very important.
Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman explained Tuesday during an interview on WFAN's "Boomer & Gio" what the Patriots will miss this season without their historically dominant tight end.
"He's definitely going to be missed," Edelman said. "Not just his athletic ability and what he does on the field, but how he is in the locker room. I've played nine or 10 years with the guy, and to see him every day and how he was as a professional - he never really had a bad day.
"When you play a long time with someone, you know them in and out. He's such a good human being. Great dude to be around, like a big old teddy bear. Those are the things you're going to miss the most. You go into Week 13, it's been a grind, you're banged up. We just had a long flight. We have a short week and you go into the office, you know, and sometimes it's not easy to have a great attitude. You look at Gronk and Gronk's over there in his locker, naked, smiling like, ‘Hey, what's up, dude?' That's just Gronk, and those are the things you're going to miss and obviously you're going to miss his attributes."
Replacing what Gronkowski gave the Patriots on the field should be among the toughest challenges facing the team this season.
Matt LaCosse and veteran Benjamin Watson are the two-best options to start at tight end for the Patriots in 2019. Watson is suspended for the first four games, and LaCosse has 20 games of NFL experience, so New England isn't in a great spot at the position with training camp one month away.
The Patriots, as a result, will need multiple players to step up and help fill the on-field production Gronkowski would have provided, and two of the best candidates for the job are Edelman and rookie wide receiver N'Keal Harry.
Edelman had a very good regular season in 2018 after missing the first four games due to suspension, and then he played even better in the playoffs, culminating with a Super Bowl LIII MVP performance. He's also Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's most trusted target on third down. Harry is a big, strong target that could be a real threat in the redzone -- a role Gronkowski filled so well for nine years.
The Patriots often do a great job replacing important players who leave in free agency or retirement, but this might be their greatest challenge yet. One player isn't going to replace Gronkowski -- it has to be a group effort on the Pats' offense.
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