There's not a lot Gronkowski can't do

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There's not a lot Gronkowski can't do

FOXBORO - As good a receiver as Rob Gronkowski has become - and the fact that he will inevitably set the single-season record for touchdowns by a tight end is evidence of that - he's also a devastating blocker.

It's not a lost art for the position by any means. But when you have one who can not only get open, catch and run but be a competent blocker, you have a complete player.

And Gronk, as Bill Belichick said, is more than competent as a blocker.

"Rob is long, can handle the length of outside linebackers and defensive ends, 64, 65 guys," Belichick said Monday in the wake of New England's 31-24 win over the Colts. "Hes got that kind of reach and hes a strong guy. He takes a lot of pride in his blocking. He likes to block and takes pride in having a good block. He gets excited about that. I think he enjoys that part of the game. He does a pretty good job."

Watch Gronkowski closely on running plays and you'll see what Belichick means. He stalks his assignment and finishes as well as any player on the outside. Whether it's a defensive end or outside linebacker, he can match up, as Belichick said. And his athleticism makes him able to not be out-quicked by defensive backs when they become his responsibility.

As much as anything, though, blocking duty is about willingness to sacrifice. And Gronkowski has that.

Belichick is liberal with his praise of Gronkowski - with 23 touchdowns in 23 NFL starts and 65 receptions and 13 touchdowns this year, he ought to be. But Belichick is also high on the improvement Gronkowski's made.

"There are a lot of things that hes doing better now than he did four weeks ago or back in September because he works at them, he takes coaching and does work hard on the practice field," Belichick pointed out. "He really tries to improve and do what you ask him to do. You see that on a weekly basis. He usually has a couple of plays every week that, if you reflect back to a different point in time last week or last month or whatever, you can see improvement in the way hes trying to do it.

"Hes conscientious and Brian Ferentz, the tight end coach, does a good job of staying on those guys and keeping on their technique and their assignments and everything. If the player works hard, then he should improve and I think Rob has done that."

Ferentz has an interesting job. Not only is he charged with developing Gronkowski, butalso with developing pseudo-wideout Aaron Hernandez.

With those two as the main tight ends on the roster,Ferentz is able to concentrate on developing their skills. Andhe's clearly earning his pay.

"Fundamentally, some things are the same but assignment-wise, sure some things are different," Belichick said when asked how varied the teaching is between Hernandez and Gronkowski. "Actually, those guys are interchangeable in different formations and so forth. When you only have two of them, in a way they have to back each other up in certain ways. Theres a lot of carryover. They have different skill sets, but theyre both very talented players. But certainly a large part of it is fundamentally the same."

Earlier this season, when Hernandez went down with an MCL sprain, Gronkowski moved into Hernandez' role as a virtual extra wideout. That both players can do the other guy's job AND be effective in his shows what's been accomplished since they got here.

"There are things Aaron does more of or does more than Rob and vice versa, so thats pretty common," Belichick pointed out. "Therere certain game plan things and certain skill things that one guy does that the other one sort of specializes in or vice versa that differentiates the coaching a little bit too, for what theyre being asked to do."

With119 throws being completed to the two of them this season, tight end has arguably become the strongest position onoffense aside from quarterback. That Gronkowski in particular is so valuable when the ball isn't coming to him is proof of just how valuable he's become.

Brady to Amendola on Facebook: 'Paddle's fixed. Time for a rematch!'

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Brady to Amendola on Facebook: 'Paddle's fixed. Time for a rematch!'

When Danny Amendola told the world on Tuesday that he's better than Tom Brady at ping pong, the quarterback must have been listening. 

On his Facebook page, Brady published a snarling image of his face Photoshopped onto the body of a table tennis player. That paddle he broke after losing to Amendola three years ago? It's fixed, Brady explained in the caption. And he's ready for a rematch.

Talk about intimidation.

Wilfork embracing modeling, tells Brady to put him in touch with Gisele's people

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Wilfork embracing modeling, tells Brady to put him in touch with Gisele's people

Vince Wilfork will be one of many well-known athletes to strip down and pose nude for photographs in ESPN The Magazine's's Body issue, joining a group that includes Cubs pitcher Jake Arrietta, Broncos defensive end Von Miller and Heat guard Dwyane Wade.

Judging by his latest tweet, the former Patriots defensive lineman -- who is listed at 325 pounds -- is getting pretty comfortable with the idea of becoming a model.

Now it's up to Tom Brady to play match-maker, it seems. Gisele retired from the runway last year so maybe her people are on the lookout for some new talent.

Belichick: Buddy Ryan a father to 'a great football family'

Belichick: Buddy Ryan a father to 'a great football family'

Bill Belichick released a statement on Buddy Ryan's passing Tuesday afternoon. 

"Today is a sad day in football due to the passing of Buddy Ryan," Belichick said. "It was always very challenging to compete against Coach Ryan, who was father to a great football family that carries on his coaching and defensive tradition. My condolences are with the Ryan Family."

Belichick is certainly very familiar with Ryan's legacy and the tradition Ryan passed down to his sons Rex and Rob. The Patriots coach has competed against all three.

Rex Ryan has squared off with Belichick during his time as head coach for the Jets (2009-14) and Bills (2015-present), and their matchups go back to Rex's days with the Ravens (1999-2008) when he was a defensive line coach and then defensive coordinator.

Rob Ryan, like his brother, got his first NFL break when his father was the head coach of the Cardinals in the mid-1990s. His second break, though, came from Belichick. He joined the Patriots staff during Belichick's first year as head coach in 2000 and coached linebackers for four seasons in New England. He has since competed against Belichick as a defensive coordinator for the Raiders, Browns, Cowboys and Saints. Rob joined Rex in Buffalo this year to serve as an assistant on the staff there. 

For Belichick's thoughts on the impact of Buddy Ryan's famous "46" defense, we dug up some of his comments from a 2012 press conference that you can find here. He called the combination of Ryan's scheme and the talented players Ryan had at his disposal as defensive coordinator of the 1985 Super Bowl champion Bears "pretty unblockable."