FOXBORO -- Rob Gronkowski was clearly made to feel bad about his choice of bye week running mates. The second-year tight end, photographed shirtless with porn star Bibi Jones (she had a shirt on; it was Gronk's blue game jersey), made a stammering apology for whatever offense he perpertrated. "I didn't intend anything to hurt the reputation of anyone on the New England Patriots," said Gronkowski on Wednesday. "On behalf of Robert Kraft and that's all and it's just a simple picture and that's all and uh, from here on out I'm just here to talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers and the big game this weekend."Gronk isn't built for this kind of thing. The synapses were firing faster than he could articulate what he meant. And, clearly, he wasn't sure what he needed to apologize for. I'm with him. He's an unmarried 21-year-old who had his photo taken with a porn star and shared it with the general populace. But the devil can be found in the details if you look hard enough. Bill Belichick asked his players not to make bye week headlines and Gronk did (and didn't have the foresight to realize how this would be a blood-in-the-water story). Although porn stars are allowed to wear whatever they please (though if they wear too much too often, they may be out of work), Gronk associating the Patriots' brand with the Bibi Jones brand was probably not something that ownership felt was awesome. Dumb choice. But in all honesty, it would have been better off left to blow over (ahem) than having Gronk fall on his sword in front of the media. Whether Gronk will serve penance beyond the embarrassment remains to be seen. Last year, Wes Welker sat out the first offensive series against the Jets after press conference several references to Rex Ryan's personal life. Belichick had asked the team that week not to incite media coverage with trash talk. Welker's foot comments stepped over the line in Belichick's view.
The Patriots defensive front had a good night against the Panthers, with Dominique Easley and Jerod Mayo standing out.