New England Patriots

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

If anyone on the New England Patriots likes to have fun while practicing and playing football, it’s Rob Gronkowski. And despite mostly being all business on Tuesday, the tight end’s often playful attitude made its presence felt during the team’s first mandatory minicamp of the offseason in Foxborough.

Gronk’s biggest highlight came on a throw from not Tom Brady, but Brian Hoyer. He hauled in a deep ball down by the front corner of the end zone, catching it over the heads of two defenders and delivering his signature Gronk spike immediately afterward. The play drew loud reactions from his teammates on the sideline in a true “Welcome back” moment for the tight end.

Gronk also made a head-turning catch over the middle of the field in single coverage. He beat safety Jordan Richards with relative ease, hooting and hollering after the play. He even appeared to get into a bit of a high-step celebration.

Speaking to reporters after practice, Gronkowski admitted he was feeling better than usual after making that particular play.

“I’m just feeling good,” Gronkowski said. “There’s times out there where you catch a ball and you don’t feel that good. You feel like you’re forcing it. You feel like you can’t make plays and it’s just one of those times. Just feeling good catching the ball. Just having fun out there with the ball in my hands running up and down the field.”

Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots reacts after catching a touchdown pass against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 24, 2017. (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots reacts after catching a touchdown pass against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 24, 2017. (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)

He most certainly wasn’t forcing it with the catches or his reactions. It was as loose and smooth as Gronk has looked in a practice setting.

Gronkowski also admitted he felt some pre-practice “jitters” due to Tuesday being his first session with the team and the tight end having some uncertainty about how it was going to go. It didn’t take long for Gronk to look or feel like himself, making the aforementioned catch over Richards relatively early on in team drills.

“It felt good,” Gronkowski said. “It’s awesome to see the guys again, be back out on the field with them just competing. It was good competition today. It was fast. Feels good to be back out there, seeing where I’m at, seeing how the body feels and everything. It’s been a little bit. The most enjoyable part of it was just seeing the guys again, the camaraderie around the locker room, out on the field. It’s just good.”

Asked why he skipped the Patriots’ first run of OTAs before mandatory minicamp, Gronk explained that he wanted to take care of himself physically and that he was “just seeing where I was at” initially. Well, it looks like he’s going to push retirement back a little bit. He looked like the same old Gronk on the field, and enjoyed himself in the process.

Anyone who says no one on the Patriots has fun, I give you exhibit A.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.