New England Patriots

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Rob Gronkowski hasn’t produced at the same level that Patriots observers are used to seeing in 2018. It’s led to all kinds of commentary about not being the same player, and speculation on whether he’d finally retire after the season.

But in case you haven’t noticed, that kind of talk hasn’t really come from his opponents on the field. They mostly still view Gronk as the same big-time playmaker he’s been for the majority of his Hall of Fame career. That extends to the Patriots’ opponent in Super Bowl LIII, the Los Angeles Rams.

Enter Aqib Talib. The Rams cornerback is a quote machine when speaking to reporters, and he dropped another gem on Monday at Super Bowl LIII Opening Night at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. You can watch his response in the video above from Fanatics View Originals (starts at 2:15), in which he’s asked how he thinks Gronkowski looks.

“He looks great, man. He look like Gronk to me,” Talib said. “You see him in the playoffs last week? He hit my dawg EB [Chiefs safety Eric Berry] up top. He’s Gronk.”

Jan 28, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) during Opening Night for Super Bowl LIII at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Talib referred to Gronkowski’s late fourth-quarter catch against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game, which he made with Berry all over him in coverage. It was the latest example of why Gronk still has that dangerous big-play ability, especially in crunch time.

A reporter followed up with Talib about the criticism Gronkowski has faced over the course of the season due to his lack of production. Talib has only heard talking heads and writers take shots; not from other players who actually prepare for him.

“All the shots, that stuff’s coming from y’all,” said Talib, referring to the media. “They don’t come from the guys watching the tape. If you watch the tape, you would see. So, I don’t know if y’all really be watching the tape like that. When was the last time you watched some tape?”

An incredulous Talib didn’t quite believe the reporter asking the question had actually, in fact, watched the tape. Then he dropped the hammer, with a smirk.

“Do you watch it, though? You probably be drunk during the game.”

Jan 28, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Los Angeles Rams cornerback Aqib Talib (21) during Opening Night for Super Bowl LIII at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

He would’ve dropped his mic if he could.

Gronkowski himself fielded questions about the criticism leveled at him, Tom Brady, and the Patriots this season. He explained how they’ve been able to twist around the words of writers and pundits to make jokes at each other.

“It actually is a fun part about it,” Gronkowski said (h/t The Camera Guys). “You know, you get to laugh at the other player that gets made fun of, and then you get to say the comments to him too, like ‘Tom has a noodle arm.’ We’ve heard that one before, and then all practice we’re telling Tom he has a noodle arm. But we’re just doing it all for laughs and fun, because we know he doesn’t have a noodle arm, and we know he’s legit and his arm is as strong as ever.”

The Pats have really embraced the hot takes and used it as added fuel for their run to Super Bowl LIII – a run that proved way more people wrong than it should have. They didn’t prove Talib or the Rams wrong, though. You won’t hear about noodle arms or Gronk losing a step from them.

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.