Following the New England Patriots' loss in Super Bowl LII, two stories dominated the news cycle in the northeast: The surprising benching of starting cornerback Malcolm Butler and tight end Rob Gronkowski being non-committal about his future in the NFL after the game. While the questions surrounding Butler will likely never get a full answer, the ones about Gronkowski will – one way or the other.
It remains to be seen whether or not the NFL's best tight end decides to pull the plug on his career this offseason. But whatever happens, it looks as if Gronkowski has been happier when it comes to playing professional football for New England – at least if NBC Boston's Tom Curran is to be believed. The Patriots insider joined Boston Sports Tonight on Monday to talk about Gronkowski and his mindset.
“He didn’t enjoy himself in 2017,” Curran said during the show. ”He did not have a good time despite the fact that his body was in a better situation than it has been in a long time, ever maybe. Despite the fact that he is one of the most dominant players at any skill position. It's starting to wear on him, physically and mentally. The atmosphere here in New England.”
When asked whether any of this occurred before he suffered a concussion during the AFC Championship Game, Curran answered that it did. “This started in training camp,” the long-time beat writer continued. “He seriously considered stepping away from the game in training camp. He kinda had it. At that point, his body wasn’t responding. He wanted to train a certain way. The team didn't necessarily want him to train the way he wanted to train; they were at loggerheads.”
The last two sentences add fuel to a fire that had been burning for some time now: The Patriots and their relationship with Alex Guerrero. Tom Brady's fitness guru, who reportedly saw some of his team access revoked this season, was treating Gronkowski last year after the 28-year old ended the 2016 season on injured reserve because of lingering back problems. It seems as if this caused tension within the organization, as Curran further elaborated.
“He was pissed. And the season played out and by the end of it, I don't think that some of the principal players on this team were really happy with the atmosphere and the climate. All the stuff that we reported, all the stuff we've talked about – they still need to have a hell of an air clearing at Patriot Place to get these guys back,” Curran continued before being asked by co-host Michael Holley whether or not a trade is a possibility.
“I don't think the Patriots have yet to take this extremely seriously,” Curran answered to Holley's question. “In my estimation, the Patriots haven't taken seriously just how beaten down he's been. You know, I talked to him in December in the locker room; I said 'You're playing unbelievable'. He goes: 'I've never had this much fun on the field as I've had right now. I'm having more fun than I've ever had'.”
There is little reason to believe that Gronkowski, one of the more up-beat players in the Patriots locker room, was lying to Curran that day – especially when considering how open he also was about his training camp performance: “He said it was embarrassing, it was humiliating. He couldn't play and he had difficulty convincing people that he should be able to go and train a particular way to get right.”
The more Curran was saying, the clearer it became that he views Gronkowski's health and how the Patriots were responding to it as a main reason for potential tension between the two parties. How the whole saga will play out over the course of the offseason – also in light of a reported meeting between the key power players within the organization (Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft) – remains to be seen.
Curran concluded his interview by noting that trading Gronkowski appears to be the least realistic scenario right now: “I don't think the team's at a point where they think they would need to trade him. I don't think he wants to play anywhere that Tom Brady isn't.”