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New England Patriots

By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com

The first official day of New England Patriots training camp got underway behind Gillette Stadium on Thursday, and did so without a new (or restructured, at the very least) contract for tight end Rob Gronkowski. But that didn’t stop the towering No. 87 from joining his teammates on the field and catching a few endzone bullets from Tom Brady along the way.

This was a positive on its own, all things considered. Gronkowski easily could have followed in the path of Arizona’s David Johnson, the Falcons’ Julio Jones, and Los Angeles defensive lineman Aaron Donald and opted to go through a holdout. And given his production as the game’s top tight end, it would be impossible to fault Gronkowski for doing just that.

But that was not a hand that Gronkowski, whose 1,084 receiving yards were the most among NFL tight ends last season (this despite Gronkowski having missed two games, too), even considered playing.

“No, it hasn’t even came close to considering that,” Gronkowski, now in his ninth training camp in Foxboro, said. “Not even one bit. What I can do, though, is keep preparing, keep showing up every day, keep doing what I’ve got to do to get better.”

In the case of Johnson and Jones, their teams almost fell over to fork over more money due to the threat of the player missing practice time. And Donald reportedly has ‘no plans’ of showing up to Rams camp until a new deal is worked out.

Gronkowski, meanwhile, seems determined to simply let the on-field results speak for themselves and lead to a new deal.

“I mean, there’s one thing I can do, there’s one thing I can worry about and there’s one thing that I can control and that’s myself, that’s my play, that’s me going out there doing what I’ve got to do to help the team,” Gronkowski noted.

The Patriots and Gronkowski have reportedly spent the majority of the summer trying to hammer out a reworked deal, though when asked for an update on those talks Thursday, Gronkowski said that he would keep those talks ‘internal.’

It’s of course worth noting that the Patriots successfully reworked the 29-year-old’s contract in 2017.

Adding that he was happy to still be in New England and a member of the Patriots, Gronkowski also touched on the idea of having fun on the field and being in the right frame of mind when it comes to playing professional football for a living.

“You’ve got to enjoy what you do,” Gronkowski, who reportedly considered retirement this offseason, said. “You’ve got to enjoy the work, and it’s fun. We’ve got good coaches out there. I like working with my coaches, the guys around me, we’re always together, working hard, joking around when it’s time to joke around and getting work done, which is the main goal.”

The 6-foot-6 Gronkowski has recorded at least 1,000 receiving yards in three of the last four seasons, and has caught 34 touchdowns over that span. And given some of New England’s offseason losses (Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks) and the four-game suspension for Julian Edelman, there’s no doubt that the Pats will need a happy and healthy Gronk in 2018.

“There’s been pressure ever since I got here and it’s to do a good job,” said Gronkowski. “So whatever my job is asked to do, whatever I get asked to do, I’ve got to go out there no matter what it is and perform to the best of my abilities to do what the coaches ask.”

‘Gronk Spiking’ Nerf footballs long before Gronk Spiking was even a thing, Ty Anderson 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. Follow and yell at him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.