It was one thing when Seth Wickersham, the bureau chief of ESPN’s Patriots Hatred division, wrote a hatchet piece about bad blood in the Pats organization back in January. That one was so filled with factual inaccuracies, gross exaggerations, false assumptions and flat out lies it was easy to refute. It was a simple matter of tossing it into the firepit marked “Wickersham,” on top of all his past fake news articles about bugged locker rooms and spy cameras at practices.
What’s going to be a lot harder to shoot holes in is this latest report from NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran. He went on local TV and had some pretty incendiary things to say about Rob Gronkowski’s relationship with the team:
He didn’t enjoy himself in 2017. He did not have a good time, despite the fact that his body was in a better situation than it’s been in a long time — ever, maybe — and despite the fact that he was one of the most dominant players at any skill position. It’s starting to wear on him — physically, mentally, the atmosphere here in New England.
This started in training camp. He seriously considered stepping away from the game in training camp. He had kind of had it. At that point, his body wasn’t responding. He wanted to train a certain way; the team didn’t necessarily want him to train the way he wanted to train. They were at loggerheads. He was pissed. And the season played out, and by the end of it, I don’t think that some of the principle players on this team were really happy with the atmosphere and the climate.
But he talked about how training camp was really embarrassing, it was humiliating. He couldn’t play, and he had difficulty convincing people that he should be able to go and train a particular way to get right.
First and foremost isn’t health necessarily. It’s all meshed together. The first and foremost is, if the climate was different, if he was having a better time, if he felt more valued — whether it be financially or personally — I think that we might not be having this conversation. But all the things rolled together have kind of hit a tipping point for him.
They still need to have a hell of an air-clearing at Patriot Place to get these guys back.
By way of full disclosure, I’m not impartial when it comes to Curran. I like the guy a lot. He’s a Stoolie from way back. He was the first legitimate football media member to reach out to me in the early days of Barstool. I’ve done tons of TV and radio with him. He’s not one of these local bomb-tossers with personal vendettas and axes to grind. He’s got enough integrity that there’s no reason to dispute what he’s saying here is accurate.
And obviously, concerning. And by “concerning” I mean this is pretty much how I’m handling it at the moment:
And just to add an element of weirdness to all this, Gronk spoke to the same reporter back in December and told him “I’m having fun playing football again.” Which is certainly how it looked. Before taking a shot in the skull bucket in the conference championship, he was the healthiest he’s looked in years. So why would the Gronkowski camp go to the game guy in February to talk about how unhappy Gronk was back in July and August?
I can only connect the dots and say that the Gronk family has a beef with the Patriots medical staff that goes back years. Back at least as far as the surgeries he had done on his forearm in 2012 and ’13. Those were done by Pats’ team physician Dr. Thomas Gill, who’s no longer with the team. And required so many re-surgeries they would’ve been better off closing up the first one with a zipper instead of stitches. Whether it’s fair or unfair, I feel like the family always resented how that was handled. Like every time Gill operated he was setting off a buzzer and a red light in Gronk’s nose. Gill is no longer with the team, but the discord is still there.
And it was only made worse when someone in team management anonymously said Gronk’s “pain tolerance” would determine how soon he’d be back. Fast forward to November of 2015 when the team that talks about injuries like they were nuclear launch codes issued a joint statement with the Gronkowskis about his sprained knee. And now this report, which is obviously all about them having faith in Alex Guerrero and not the team doctors. And what we’re left with is a situation that has to be resolved if Rob Gronkowski is going to continue to be employed here. I have to assume that’s why this is coming out now. Because the family wants Gronk to get treatment from Brady’s TB 12 partner and not the doctors and trainers they think are basically a bunch of butchers and medieval barbers, operating with rusty farm implements and leeches.
It’s not hard to see both sides. On the one hand, as crackpotty as Guerrero’s methods sound, Brady looks and plays better at 40 than he did at 27. Gronk had a relatively healthy year. Tom E. Curran told me on the air he went to Guerrero for something and swears by him. On the other hand, the Patriots spend something like $2 million on a top flight medical staff with the best equipment and don’t want to be contradicted by a guy talking about alkalinity and connecting brain neurons to injured ankles or whatever.
And just to add to the intrigue, there’s this, from the beat writer at the Providence Journal:
So this is a situation that has to be resolved. Either with a beer summit where all sides come to some sort of a compromise about allowing Gronk some leeway regarding his treatment (I volunteer to host), Gronk getting traded or Gronk retiring. All I know is I long for the days when the biggest controversy between this team and their second best player was that he was taking pictures with porn stars. And the weirdest period in the history of this dynasty just keeps getting weirder.