Gronkowski gets three TDs, no record

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Gronkowski gets three TDs, no record

FOXBORO -- Maybe he should have spiked it, after all.

Instead, after his third-quarter touchdown, Rob Gronkowski held onto the ball for dear life. That one was going straight to his personal trophy case after a two-yard score appeared to have given Gronkowski his 14th touchdown reception of the season -- the most receiving touchdowns in a single season for any tight end in the history of the game.

Minutes later, that touchdown -- which was Gronkowski's third of the day -- was ruled to be a lateral, turning it into a rushing touchdown and leaving Gronkowski tied for the single-season tight-end reception record with Vernon Davis and Antonio Gates at 13.

"My first rushing touchdown ever, that's cool," said Gronkowski after New England's 31-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

It gave the Patriots a 31-3 lead with 4:13 left in the third quarter. It just didn't give Gronkowski a new reception record he thought he set. And he didn't find out until he got back to the locker room.

"They told me right after the game," said Gronkowski. "So it's whatever. Numbers aren't really important. Records aren't really important. The thing that's most important anyways is getting the victory, which we did."

On second-and-goal from the Colts 2-yard line, Brady quickly dumped the ball off to his right, where Gronkowski caught the pass and ran it into the end zone.

Brady didn't realize it was turned into a rushing touchdown until he was informed by the media during his postgame press conference.

"That's okay," said Brady. "I'm glad we scored. That was a good play, good blocking. They blocked well for him on that play. That was great."

"It must have been close," added Brady. "I thought it was a forward pass. I threw it."

Gronkowski finished the game with five receptions for 64 yards,. And while he doesn't hold the receptions record yet, his 14 total touchdowns on the season (13 receiving and one rushing) give him the highest number of combined touchdowns by a tight end in NFL history.

So, technically, the ball he refused to spike still has historic value.

"I thought it was the record-breaking receiving one, so I wanted to keep it," said Gronkowski, whose signature touchdown celebration is an end-zone spike. "But, I wish I spiked it now.

"I guess I get to keep my first rushing touchdown ball ever, so that's pretty cool, too."

Perhaps if the Patriots had known during the game that Gronkowski's third touchdown was ruled a rushing touchdown, they would have been more determined to find him the ball in the end zone one more time, in the fourth quarter.

But afterwards, it was the same old Patriots. The only number they say they cared about was their ninth win of the season.

"I was really trying to be concerned about beating the Colts," said Bill Belichick when asked if he knew about Gronkowski being close to the record. "I wasn't really concerned about individual stats. I think I've said that many, many times. This game isn't about individual stats. It's about team wins."

Gronkowski agreed with his coach.

"Records mean really nothing, at the end of the day," said Gronkowski. "The only thing that really matters is the whole team, and getting the victory that week."

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

Rob Gronkowski's contract looked like one of the NFL's best bargains not too long ago. Now, after agreeing to a contract restructure, he could be paid as the top tight end in the league if he stays healthy.

Granted, it's a gargantuan "if."

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Gronkowski's restructured deal will bump his salary for this upcoming season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million should he hit certain statistical thresholds or be named an All-Pro.

Per Schefter, Gronkowski earns $10.75 million if he plays 90 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done once before in his career), or makes 80 catches (which he's done twice), or gains 1,200 yards receiving (once), or is named an All-Pro (three times). 

Those seem like lofty goals for the 28-year-old who's entering his eighth year as a pro. But history shows that if he stays on the field for a full season or thereabouts -- 15 games to be specific -- he'll get to where he wants to be. 

If you take out his rookie year, before he had established himself as a go-to option in the Patriots offense, Gronkowski has played in three seasons during which he's reached at least 15 games. In each of those three seasons, he's been named an All-Pro. In 2011, he hit all three statistical markers. In 2014, he hit one. In 2015, he hit none. 

The lesson? When Gronkowski stays relatively healthy throughout a given season, even if he doesn't reach the astronomical statistical heights he reached in his second year, there's a very good chance he's considered the best tight end in the NFL. 

And if that's the case again in 2017, he'll be paid like the best tight end in the NFL.

To hit the second tier of his restructured deal -- which would pay him $8.75 million, per Schefter -- Gronkowski needs to play 80 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done twice), or make 70 catches (three times), or gain 1,000 receiving yards (three times), or catch 12 touchdowns (twice). 

To hit the third tier of his new deal and get $6.75 million, Gronkowski needs to play 70 percent of the snaps (which he's done four times), or make 60 catches (three times), or gain 800 receiving yards (three times), or score 10 touchdowns (five times). 

According to Spotrac, Jimmy Graham of the Seahawks is currently scheduled to be the tight end position's top earner next season at $10 million. Odds are that if Gronkowski avoids disaster and stays on the field, he'll eclipse that.

But the odds of him staying on the field are what they are: He's played in 15 games in four of seven pro seasons. 

The restructured deal seems to be the ultimate incentive for Gronkowski to get healthy and stay that way following last year's season-ending back surgery. If he can, the Patriots will reap the benefits of having the game's most dynamic offensive weapon on the field, and the player will be paid a far cry from what he was scheduled to make when the week began.

Report: Patriots, Gronkowski restructure contract for 2017 season

Report: Patriots, Gronkowski restructure contract for 2017 season

The Patriots and Rob Gronkowski have restructured the tight end’s contract for the coming season, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. 

The reworked deal can bump Gronkowski’s salary for the 2017 season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million, according to Schefter. 

Gronkowski was limited by injury to just eight games last season. He had 25 receptions for 540 yards and three touchdowns, all of which were career lows. 

The 28-year-old is entering his eighth NFL season since being selected by the Pats in the second round of the 2010 draft. He has played played in at least 15 regular-season games in four of his first seven season, though he’s twice played fewer than 10.