New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was unable to play the first two weeks of the season and he was extremely limited in week 3. While everyone wants to see Gronk on the field, including Gronk himself, he’s fully on board with slowly working his way back to the field- and the team captain is learning a few things along the way.
“Whenever you're coming back from an injury, you're not all of a sudden at 100 percent or full-go, so [I’m] just kind of taking it one day at a time and easing myself into the progression of playing football and doing everything out there,” Gronkowski said on Wednesday. “I felt good, definitely. You're always sore no matter what after playing a game. No matter if you play 10 plays or 70 plays, [you're] definitely sore like any other game, but no setbacks, no nothing; feeling good and just progressing every day.”
Gronkowski suffered a hamstring injury in August and that needs to heal fully before getting back into the mix because the re-injury rate for hamstrings is extremely high.
“You've got to be careful with any injury, but I mean, if you research hamstrings, if you know anything about hamstrings, you've definitely got to be careful,” Gronkowski said. “You've got to progress. You can't just hop back in and be full-go 100 percent. I wish it was like that. I can't wait until I'm going crazy out there again. So I'm just progressing myself into it and feeling better every single day.”
Gronkowski played 14 snaps against the Texans (see our film breakdown of Gronkowski’s snaps here) and it’s likely that his workload will increase against the Bills after ten extra days of rest. He probably won’t play 100 percent of the snaps, but he’s inching closer to a full return that should align with the end of Tom Brady’s suspension.
While Gronkowski hasn’t been able to play, he’s still having an impact in the locker room and on the sideline. He’s helped Martellus Bennett thrive as the starting tight end in his stead and that should only benefit the team moving forward. Gronkowski has also learned a bit from watching the game from a different perspective.
“You'll be a better player by being out on the field and playing, but you definitely do see things [while not playing] that you can pick up,” Gronkowski said. “You've got to definitely look at the positives and pick up things if you're not out there...You just try to pick up things, try to pick up coverages, try to read coverages when you're not out there, so definitely try and make yourself a better player, but definitely when you can be the best player is when you're out there.”
This reminds me of a quote from the now-retired linebacker Jerod Mayo, who suffered multiple season-ending injuries while with the Patriots.
“I've been on the sidelines, [so] I can see a lot of different things that they [Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins] can't see while they're out playing because so many things are going through their mind,” Mayo said prior to Super Bowl XLIX.
Mayo watched the field from a different perspective and saw how the coaches saw the field, so he was better able to understand and translate coach speech to results on the field.
While Gronkowski won’t have that same sideline experience as Mayo, he should be in the same boat with regards to seeing the game from a different perspective and that will help in the long run.
Until then, Gronkowski will continue to work his way to full strength and give his all to the few snaps that he does play.
“Whenever I'm out on the field, I love to go full-go, but they put me in the plays where they felt more comfortable and when I was in those plays, I felt like I was ready to roll,” Gronkowski said.
The Patriots- and fans everyone- are ready for Gronk to roll, too.