Belichick says Gronk has similarities to Bavaro

Belichick says Gronk has similarities to Bavaro

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick so reveres his '80s Giants, it became a running joke with former Patriot Mike Vrabel.

Belichick would bring up the halcyon days of Big Blue, Vrabel would rail about that team playing against a bunch of truck drivers and iron workers, Belichick would put a Giants helmet in Vrabel's locker. Big fun.

One of Belichick's favorites was tight end Mark Bavaro. The two-time All-Pro known for his athleticism, stoicism and incredible blocking ability has been a touchstone player for Belichick as the years have passed. The search for someone similar has hit several dead ends.

But Belichick made a surprising admission when asked by ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss (via a fan) about current Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski's similarities to Bavaro.

"I'd say there are some similarities," Belichick said of his 6-6, 265-year old rookie from Arizona. "Good size, blocking, receiving, a little bit of the same body type and playing style."

Athletic as Gronkowski is for his size, Bavaro was equally so in his 6-4, 245 pound package.

Belichick cautioned that no one get too hasty putting anyone in Bavaro's class quite yet.

"That's a little stretch to compare anybody at that stage of their career to Bavaro," said Belichick. "Bavaro had a great career. He played against some of the all-time greats -- Reggie White twice a year, and White is playing 6-technique head up on the tight end and you really don't get any help. That's a pretty big assignment. I think I'd be reluctant to put anybody in Mark Bavaro's class.

"I don't mean that in any way to slight any of our players. He set the bar up there pretty high. He could block, he could catch, he could run, and run after the catch. He was a great competitor. Mark was there every single week," Belichick said. "That's a guy you could count on. We lined up every year at training camp and he could block Carl Banks and Lawrence Taylor. Not too many guys blocked them. You talk about competitive battles -- if you like football, that's about as good as you could find right there."

So far, Gronkowski has 32 catches for 390 yards and seven touchdowns. This weekend's game at Buffalo is a sort of homecoming for him. He grew up in nearby Amherst, New York.

"I'm excited to go back," he said Friday afternoon. "It's my first chance to play in front of my friends and family since high school. It's been a while - four or five years. I'm super excited to go back and see everyone."

Gronkowski's never played in Ralph Wilson Stadium. He did go to a few Bills games.

His favorite player? "Takeo Spikes was my favorite. His name was always cool. And also Eric Moulds. I got his old school jersey and everything. That was pretty legit."

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Belichick: Patriots have caught up after starting offseason 'five weeks behind'

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Belichick: Patriots have caught up after starting offseason 'five weeks behind'

FOXBORO -- After starting the offseason "five weeks behind," as Bill Belichick put it, the Patriots have caught up. 

"I think we’re probably caught up to where we are now," he said before Thursday's OTA practice at Gillette Stadium. "I think it’s being behind in draft, free agency and that type of thing.

"I think at this point, we’re ready for OTAs. We’ll be ready for training camp. I think that part of it we’ll be on schedule on. It’s the catching up on all the spring projects, draft and free agency. It’s the initial part of it."

Belichick made headlines on the morning after winning his fifth Lombardi Trophy with the Patriots when he said, "As of today, and as great as today feels and as great as today is, in all honesty we're five weeks behind in the 2017 season to most teams in the league. Fortunately we have a great personnel staff

"Look, in a couple weeks we're going to be looking at the combine, obviously the draft, all-star games have already occurred, and in a month we're into free agency, not to mention all the internal Patriots players (whose) contracts are up and we're going to have to work with in some form or fashion like every team in the league does."

Leaning on evaluations of players that began in the build-up to previous drafts, Belichick and his staff opted to trade away some of this year's draft capital for veterans like Brandin Cooks, Kony Ealy and Dwayne Allen. They also gave up their fifth-rounder to sign restricted free agent Mike Gillislee.

Before heading out to the team's third practice of the week -- the first week the Patriots were allowed to introduce helmets and run offense versus defense periods -- Belichick said that part of his focus will be spent on finding out how those players he picked up this offseason are progressing.

"Yeah, that’s definitely part of it," he said. "Seeing the new players, how they’re doing and also how they’re doing relevant to the rest of the other players that I’m a little more familiar with. Again, each year is a new year, so even though we’ve seen some of these guys multiple years, it’s still starting all over again, seeing where they are, how they’re progressing in their training and preparation for the season."