Foxboro -- Rob Gronkowski, 29, has nothing if not perspective. The ninth-year tight end has 45 catches this season, but it has been a quiet and disappointing season. There has been talk of retirement and many think that his best days days are behind him. The season, however, might just be starting for Gronkowski who could erase the disappointment of a mediocre regular season with a strong playoff performance. Gronkowski knows that this could be the beginning of a new script. After all, fans might remember little else about the 2014 season except for the Malcolm Butler interception at the end of the Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks that ended the Pats 10-year championship drought. Playoff games are far more remembered than regular season games.
"We got the Jets and that is all I am worried about," Gronkowski said. "We had a lot of fun today, but we also have to get our work done."
Given that the NFL can be a harsh business, Gronkowski has always tried to have fun. As he has played more, Gronkowski has recognized the business side of the game. He knows tight end can be a ruthless position. In 2013, he played in only seven games and had 39 catches because of injury and in 2016 he missed the Pats Super Bowl run when they beat Atlanta because of injury. He had only 25 catches that season. Gronkowski conceded that because of the injuries he has had down moments - partly because of the wear and tear on his body and the back and ankle injuries he has faced in his career. Gronkowski could have been sentimental Thursday, but said his focus is on the New York Jets.
"We are treating this like a big game, we got a big game ahead of us," Gronkowski said of this week's matchup with the Jets. Gronkowski will face very good Jets safety Jamal Adams this week. Adams like most safeties will try to play physical against Gronkowski.
The best way to defend Gronkowski is to have either one or two defenders cover him. Gronkowski (even though he was on the field for the last play of the Miami debacle) had his best game of the season with eight catches for 107 yards in South Florida two weeks ago. It helped that the Dolphins decided to play a lot of zone coverage. Gronkowski also made the catch on the Pats final play from scrimmage to setup the game-winning field goal against the Chiefs. The Chiefs, after doubling him for much of the game, decided to leave him in single coverage. Gronkowski also made a great catch in the season opener against the Texans and had a beautiful 34-yard touchdown catch in late November against the Jets so it hasn't been all bad.
Gronkowski declined to talk about when he has gotten too down on himself
"I don’t know. I probably have before, but it’s over. I’m back on the roller coaster, baby. I’m going. I’m here for the ride," Gronkowski said.
Surely, one of the reasons that Gronkowski returned this season was to keep playing with the greatest QB of all time in Tom Brady.
"That's huge to have that stability. Playing with him for nine years now - five years ago we knew he would be at this point playing top-level football," Gronkowski said. "It was never a worry. The stability has been here all these years and don't see why it would change."
Asked if he would like to play as long as Tom Brady. "I mean, he’s on like Year 20 and he’s probably going to get to 30 years."
Gronkowski still tries to have fun.
"You’ve got to. It’s a long season. You’ve got training camp, all of the regular season. You’ve got the preseason games. You’ve got all of that, so you’ve got to keep it light. You’ve got to enjoy your time and no matter how games go, up or down, you’ve just got to keep focused and keep it going, which we have been. I mean, we’ve been through a roller coaster, up and down throughout the whole season, and what you’ve got to do is just stay focused and keep on preparing and keep on mentally and physically just grinding and just keep going."
Fans are hoping Gronkowski brings that energy and focus into the playoffs.
The loveable Gronkowski might have one great playoff run left in him.