Patriots To-Do List: First priority is to get their Gronk right

Patriots To-Do List: First priority is to get their Gronk right

With the glow of Super Bowl LI finally beginning to fade -- a little -- it's time to start looking ahead to 2017. Over the next few days, we'll look at the Patriots' to-do list: Things they need to care of as the offseason begins. We start today with Rob Gronkowski, and the need for him to becone more durable.

Conventional wisdom for the past few years has held that, without a full-go Gronk, the Patriots wouldn’t win a Super Bowl. 

The 2011, 2012, 2013 and -- especially -- the 2014 seasons were seen as proof of that maxim. 

PATRIOTS TO-DO LIST:

Well, they just won a Super Bowl without him. But the team’s relationship with Gronk going forward shouldn’t be impacted by the fact they reeled off 31 unanswered points and won, any more than if Atlanta’s Robert Alford had sealed a Falcons win by intercepting Tom Brady on the deflected pass Julian Edelman hauled in. 

Gronk stands apart. But his availability and health will impact the team’s decisions. Speaking to those close to the tight end, I got indications the surgery was a full-on success and not terribly invasive. As I reported in early January, he’ll be ready to go for offseason workouts. The question is how committed he’s going to be to embracing a different way of training. A tight end needs some meat on his bones and muscle mass to do his job effectively, especially in the running game. But, at 27, Gronk is a rocked-up, beefcake poster trending towards lumbering. He’s spent his athletic life training for strength. His training camp and early season were ruined by a hamstring pull. 

If he wants to avoid those soft-tissue injuries and add years to his career and give himself a shot at walking without a limp in his 40s, he has to commit to the pliability, resistance band, hydration, rest and diet training that Alex Guerrero espouses. It doesn’t just work for Tom Brady. It’s what helped Julian Edelman go from being an oft-injured wideout to one who survives some of the most punishing hits of any wideout in the league. It’s what helped Willie McGinest go from tearing a muscle a week to being able to play most effectively at the end of his career. 

Brady, speaking this week to MMQB poobah Peter King, was speaking generally about health but his words apply very easily to Gronk. 

“If you’re a receiver, and you have a great game, say you have eight catches,” Brady explained. “And you play eight games a season and you're hurt the other eight. Eight catches times eight games is 64. That's a below-average season for any receiver. If you play 16 games with an average of eight catches you're an All-Pro.

"The difference is durability. How do you work on durability? That’s what I’ve figured out. I know how to be durable. It’s hard for me to get hurt, knock on wood. Anything can happen in football. But I want to put myself in a position to be able to withstand the car crash before I get in the car crash. I don't want to go in there and say, ‘Oh, God, I know this muscle is really tight and ready to go, let’s see if it can hold up to someone falling on me who is 300 pounds.’ Then someone lands on you, and a rotator cuff tears. I could have told you that was probably going to happen. It’s going to be really hard for me to have a muscle injury, based off the health of my muscle tissue and the way that I try to take care of it. Your muscle and your body allow you to play this great sport.”
 
The disposition of Gronk affects other decisions. Martellus Bennett’s made it clear that the warm fuzzies of playing for the Patriots haven’t dulled his desire to get maximum return in free agency.  Michael Floyd says he wants to be back and Gronk ripples may extend to those conversations. And there are draft considerations to take into account as well. 

And then there’s the money aspect. Gronk’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, was trying to get Gronk’s deal redone last summer. He’s signed through 2019 and the salaries are below-market for a tight end of Gronk’s ability but they are very reasonable given the questions of availability.  For Gronk to get a bump, he needs to show his durability issues are being addressed. And even then, the Patriots may need to see it for a full season, not just a few months in the summer. How will this fly with Team Gronk? Probably not well. But it is, as they say, what it is. 
 

Bills trade down, land a corner to help replace Gilmore

Bills trade down, land a corner to help replace Gilmore

Give the Bills some credit. On Thursday night they made the kind of move that even Bill Belichick might stand up and applaud. 

With an opportunity to sit at No. 10 overall and draft any number of players -- perhaps a quarterback not named Mitch Trubisky, perhaps the consensus top corner in the draft Marshon Lattimore -- they took advantage of the Chiefs' interest in Texas Tech gunslinger Pat Mahomes and traded out.

What they ended up with was the No. 27 overall pick, Kansas City's first-rounder next year, and an addition third-round pick this year. 

A corner-needy team after Stephon Gilmore signed with the Patriots as a free agent this offseason, the Bills watched Lattimore come off the board at No. 11 overall to the Saints. They also saw Alabama corner Marlon Humphrey head to Baltimore with the No. 16 overall pick.

But Buffalo held tight at No. 27 and still picked up one of the better cover men in this year's class. LSU's Tre'Davious White is the kind of player that new Bills head coach Sean McDermott believes will help solidify his secondary. 

"He plays inside, he plays outside, he's also a returner in terms of the special teams value," he told reporters, via Matt Fairburn of NewYorkUpstate.com, "so we feel good about it."

White is 5-foot-11, 192 pounds and was a four-year starter for the Tigers. Though he may have issues helping in run support, he seems ready to check talented wideouts at the next level after compiling a backlog of good experience against tough receivers in the SEC.

The pick wrapped up the night for Patriots competitors in the AFC East. All three clubs opted to go with players who will try to slow down Tom Brady and his offensive teammates twice next year.

The Dolphins went with a pass-rusher while the Jets picked up arguably the best defensive back in the class.

Best of BST Podcast: Charlie Weis

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Best of BST Podcast: Charlie Weis

On this episode of "The Best of Boston Sports Tonight Podcast" with Tom Curran, Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith...former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis joined us in-studio to discus a wide array of topics. Also, the Celtics look to close out the Bulls, and Lou Merloni weighs-in on another dominating effort by Chris Sale.

  • 0:41 - Former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis joins BST to discuss what it was like coaching Tom Brady early in the quarterback’s career and how it came about that the Patriots drafted Tom Brady in the 6th round.
  • 3:18 - Weis gives us an insight into what Bill Belichick is like during the NFL draft, how trades are made while the draft is going on, and why the Patriots have struggled with getting tall wide receivers.
  • 7:38 - Weis tell us which quarterback in this year’s draft he thinks will be the best pro and how Jimmy Garoppolo compares to the QB’s in this draft class.
  • 11:15 - Discussion on if the Celtics would have a 3-2 series lead if Rajon Rondo did not get injured and how the Celtics have found a way to get the job done.
  • 15:37 - Lou Merloni joins BST to talk about Chris Sale once again dominating but not getting the win because of the lackluster Red Sox offense, and John Farrell letting Sale pitch in the 9th inning this time around.