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Report: Gronk is Staying, but 'Lingering Frustrations Remain' Between Him and Belichick


ESPNAs New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski weighs his future, sources close to him say he has recently expressed that he is more likely to continue his football career than retire at 28 years old.

Sources say Gronkowski still hasn’t made a decision. But despite serious considerations since the end of the season of retiring because of physical and mental fatigue, sources say Gronkowski is “pretty certain” he’ll come back as long as Tom Brady remains with the team.

However, this dose of good news for Patriots fans comes with some dilution: Lingering frustrations remain between Gronkowski and head coach Bill Belichick, along with others in the Patriots organization, according to sources close to each side. …

For Belichick, since the season’s end, sources say he has expressed frustration with those close to him about Gronkowski, specifically questioning whether he remains “all-in,” a critical aspect of Belichick’s blueprint for success. … Although the discord should not be discounted, as one source explained, it should not be viewed as irreconcilable.

To be honest, I don’t see where there’s anything new here. I wrote about reports Gronk and Belichick have been getting on each other’s last nerve over a month ago. So I could sum up this Jeff Darlington piece by saying “Yup” and move onto other things. But since this is the closest thing to the Patriots making news over Easter weekend, I have a professional obligation to expound on it for the next couple of hundred words.

I suppose the biggest takeaway – accepting the report as accurate – is that Gronkowski is coming back. Which seemed to be the likely outcome all along, despite all the WWE rumors or the suggestions he was headed out to LA to become his generation’s Daniel Day Lewis. I think by now when we read “sources close to” Gronkowski, we translate that to “the rest of the Gronkowskis.” So I’ll accept as true that his side is done with the Brett Favrian posturing and uncertainty and he’s getting ready to go chase the next ring. And our long, regional nightmare will be over at last.

The other important part of this is something I have not questioned for a moment. And that’s the friction between Gronk and Belichick is real. It goes without saying that they are very different sorts of cats. That they’ve have a kind of Harry Potter-Prof. Snape relationship, which can get old after eight years of working together. And that as a result, Gronk had no fun last year, despite making All Pro and a Super Bowl. Take for example this moment:

Which Gronk discussed after the fact by basically admitting that kind of spontaneous outburst is against company policy where he works. “We got yelled at. We’re not allowed to talk about celebrations. That’s what we got told,” he said. “But, I kind of want to talk about it, but I kind of don’t because I’ll get in trouble, so I don’t know what to do. So, it just happened on the spot. It wasn’t planned. We’ll just keep it there.”

And yet I can see The Hooded One’s side of it too. Even coming off winning Super Bowl LI in a year where Gronkowski was really only a healthy factor in five games, the Patriots nevertheless tore up his team-friendly contract and offered him the chance to make more money. Which he did, maxing out on his incentives and becoming the highest paid tight end in football. Which is great for everyone involved. Unless the player then wants another new deal. Then you’ve got a problem. For instance, Belichick loved $3 million Wes Welker, but Wes Welker at $9 million, not so much.

Add to it if said player begins pushing back against the team medical staff because he’s got a different sort of workout he wants to do against their doctors’ orders, then friction isn’t just normal; it’s practically unavoidable. But the bottom line is that the two of them are the best in the world at what they do. By far. And they didn’t get there by not being willing to read the room, assess the situation, adapt, change and compromise. To do anything else would have Gronk running routes for a mere mortal quarterback and Belichick with a lesser player at the second most important position in his offense. And that will benefit neither of them. I’m just glad the Gronk camp is finally leaking some positive news and putting an end to this thing. Because this post-Super Bowl period needs to stop sucking, right now.