Rob Gronkowski on his physical and mental recovery from football


For nine seasons Rob Gronkowski was a huge star for the New England Patriots, catching touchdown passes from Tom Brady. He won three Super Bowls along the way, and at 6'6," more than 260 pounds, his bruising style made him undoubtedly one the best to ever play the game.

So, it's a bit surprising to find him doing an intricate jigsaw puzzle:

"I started off with the borders first," he showed correspondent Reena Ninan. "And then I started going by the colors. Then, when I started getting pieces together, you know, started figuring out strategies, how to go quicker, how to figure it out, it just started clicking.

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"It just lowered my stress levels, just the way that, you know, I was feeling. Just always anxious, always going. And I just needed to finally find some downtime to just relax."

Now his fight is to put his body back together again, from shots of fresh turmeric and ginger, to physical therapy and training, and those jigsaw puzzles, which he says are an important piece of his recovery.  "Just started improving my, you know, problem-solving skills, too, on top of it," he said. "It was crazy. My brain was just clicking. It was just going. It was all on wheels."

The risk of traumatic brain injury that NFL players face is well documented, and Gronkowski is very aware of the realities.

"If you go look at a picture of me literally from seven months ago, my head is, like, swollen," he said. "I was feeling back here, and I had, like, I'm talking, like, liquid just on my brain. You could push it in, it was like pushing, like, a jelly donut in."

"That just freaks me out, hearing you say that?" said Ninan.

"I mean, I'm not, you know, I'm not sitting here saying every day I'm waking up and feeling unbelievable. But I'm saying, like, from where I was, I'm improving a lot every week, and if I stay on the right track, I keep on improving."

Despite the painful cost of playing, he's quick to defend the game of football, though he does have one suggestion to make it safer: have every player sit out one game a year. "Just to give 'em an extra week of recovery," he said. "'Cause it's a vicious game, let me tell you. One extra week of rest is huge!"

As for himself, Rob Gronkowski says he's happy with the changes he's made in his life as he continues to put the pieces back together.

Ninan asked, "What are you proudest of in your road to recovery?"

"Just the steps I make every week," he replied. "Sometimes there's no progress made that week. I'm just keeping on fighting. Just keep on going, keep on doing the right things. Go back out, get myself feeling good again and go back out and enjoy myself."

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      Story produced by Amol Mhatre.

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