Foxborough, Mass —
Rob Gronkowski said he feels 100 times better this year than he did last year in training camp. Gronkowski, who had $4.3 million in incentives added to his contract for 2018 Wednesday, hurt his back late in the 2016 season and missed the playoffs when the Pats defeated Atlanta in the Super Bowl. Gronkowski, however, knows that progress can be erased quickly.
"I definitely feel ready for sure and I feel good. But I mean, it’s a long season. It’s kind of hard to describe the body. I mean you got to go through it in order to understand. It’s on every play I would say. One day you could be feeling great and then the next day, you just don’t know how you’re going to feel. Taking hits, you could take a helmet to the thigh, you could take a helmet to the chest, wherever, and your body could just react differently. The swelling can react differently and then you’re feeling like garbage the next day,“ Gronkowski said Tuesday.
“I can’t really ever get up here and ever say that I feel amazing because you just never know. Every single day though, I prepare myself to the fullest so I can feel the best I can feel the next day."
Giants WR Odell Beckham received a new contract Monday that makes him the highest paid wide receiver in football - five years $95 million, $41 million fully guaranteed. Gronkowski wants to be paid like a top wide receiver because he is one of the league's most prolific pass catchers. Gronkowski, who says he always wants the best for the players, likes the idea of having a single pass catching category that includes wide receivers and tight ends when determining his compensation.
"That would be pretty cool," Gronkowski said.
Asked if he wants something done in the near future.
"I’m always open for that," Gronkowski said.
Is there any rush to get it done before the season?
"It is what it is. That’s not really my focus. I got a long season ahead and just trying to focus on what I need to really do and just let everything else play out," Gronkowski said Tuesday
Gronkowski is considered a veteran at only 29. The only players who have been with the Pats longer are Tom Brady, Stephen Gostkowski, Matthew Slater and Julian Edelman. Devin McCourty was drafted the same year (2010) as Gronkowski.
"I know, that is crazy actually. I know, I am 29 going on my ninth year and it’s like I’m like a true veteran for sure now. It’s just wild and it just shows how quick it goes, how much you should just appreciate it while you’re in it. It’s crazy just seeing a couple 21 year olds running around the locker room now, 22 year olds, and just being 29 now. I was always the youngest one on like every team growing up, kind of when I got here too, so it’s all so cool," Gronkowski said
OL coach Dante Scarnecchia Still Loves Coaching
The Pat assistants coaches emerged from hibernation Tuesday and finally spoke to the media. Scarnecchia, who has been a Pats assistant coach for all but three years since 1982 is in his 47th coaching season - 35th NFL Season, 33rd Patriots season, received an honor when former Pats WR Randy Moss mentioned him in his Hall of Fame speech on August 4th.
"I always liked Randy. I always liked being around him. He was very respectful towards me, which probably only had to do with my age. I was shocked that he would ever bring it up - honored that he would."
Scarnecchia, though, didn't watch the speech.
"We were in the thick of everything (meaning training camp). I was probably sleeping. In fact, I know I was sleeping," Scarnecchia said.
Scarnecchia, 70, likes the cohesion of the interior offensive line with Joe Thuney at left guard, David Andrews at center and Shaq Mason at right guard. The group has been together now for three years. Scarnecchia's biggest challenge this year and in a long time is making sure that OL Trent Brown, who the Pats acquired in a trade with San Francisco this offseason, can protect Tom Brady's blindside. The 6-foot-6 380 pound tackle must transition from being a right tackle to a left tackle. In the Tom Brady era, Matt Light and Nate Solder have protected Brady's blindside. Given Brown's size, conditioning is always a worry.
Scarnecchia also must teach Brown about new situations he might experience. The offensive line coach, who began his coaching career when Richard Nixon was president in 1970, recalls a situation against Carolina that Brown had not seen before - which left Brown exposed. Brown is eager to learn. When Scarnecchia tells Brown he needs to work on something he does it.
"He is a compliant guy that wants to be better," Scarnecchia said.
Scarnecchia liked when G Shaq Mason, an interior lineman - a position that is often undervalued, received a new contract. Scarnecchia was impressed that Mason could transition from a run only offense at Georgia Tech in college to the mainly passing offense of the Pats.
"It makes me feel good when guys who work hard to improve get rewarded," Scarnecchia said.
Notes: LB Harvey Langi, OL Isaiah Wynn (out for season), TE Ryan Izzo, OL Luke Bowanko were absent form practice. RB coach Ivan Fears was excited when the Pats drafted Sony Michel in the first round. "I loved it. I am excited anytime we draft a running back.“ Fears had high praise for the intelligence of RB James White. "If you ask James a question, he has probably got the answer. If he doesn't know - it's probably a tough question where you have go straight to (offensive coordinator) Josh (McDaniels). Safeties coach Steve Belichick, oldest son of Bill Belichick, on working with his father. "It's been great. It's the only person I have ever worked for whether it's my dad or another NFL head coach."
Bill Belichick recalled former Pats OL Sebastian Vollmer, who is from Germany, impersonating Bill Belichick in German at the rookie show in 2009 - Vollmer’s rookie year. "No one knew what he was saying, but it was pretty entertaining, " Belichick said. The coach added the team has been evaluating its talent throughout training camp. "what do you think we’re doing? We’re in camp. We’re not having watermelon rolls and badminton contests."
Long snapper Joe Cardona received the Ron Burton Community Service Award Tuesday Night - awarded annually to one player for outstanding contributions in the community. The Pats final preseason game is Thursday Night - 7:30 p.m. kickoff against the New York Giants in New Jersey.