Tom E. Curran has been around, and he knows.
"I've seen 'em all," he said Thursday night on 'Quick Slants', referring to Patriots' tight ends over the years. "Marv Cook, Eric Bjornson, Rod Rutledge, even Russ Francis. He's better than all of them, except for Ben Coates."
"He" is Rob Gronkowski, and he's Curran's choice for the Patriots' first-half MVP. Ex-Pats safety Rodney Harrison, now an NFL analyst for NBC, seems to agree.
"Rob, he's kind of special," Harrison told Curran. "He's a big guy, very physical, he runs excellent routes, he does a great job . .
"He's a big body, and the one thing about a big body: If you're not a big safety, if you're not a 215-, 220-pounder, it's hard to get up and jam him and re-route him . . .
"But he's fabulous. He's a great athlete, he has great hands, good body position, runs excellent routes, and Tom Brady puts the ball exactly where he wants the ball."
So come Monday night, Harrison expects the Chiefs to try and neutralize Gronkowski. And he should know: Kansas City defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel was the Pats' defensive coordinator during Harrison's first two years in New England, and Rodney knows how Rac thinks.
"We would always go in and Crennel would say, 'Hey, we're going to take this one thing away. We're going to force them to beat us a certain way.'
"And that said, I think they're going to try to take away Gronkowski and try to take away Wes Welker. You can't take away everything, but I think if you take away the two most important pieces of that puzzle -- and those are Tom's two favorite receivers -- you have to take them away.
"Try to double-team them and force Deion Branch to beat you on the outside, and force Aaron Hernandez or someone else to beat you out there."