Patriots' Love has no time to smell the roses

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Patriots' Love has no time to smell the roses

FOXBORO - The Patriots' standard set of captains doesn't figure to change much this season: Brady, Wilfork, Mayo, Slater, Mankins and McCourty.

But this preseason, when the Patriots rested a fleet of front-line players against the Eagles, they sent out a different set of players for the pregame coin toss. One of them was Kyle Love.

Pregame coin flip in the preseason with the varsity in shorts and t-shirts? Woot. Woot. Put that on the Hall of Fame bust.

Context, though. Context.

Love, undrafted in 2010, has arguably had the most impressive rise among the fleet of undrafted players that make up a large portion of the Patriots' roster.

He wedged himself into use in 2010, playing in nine games. In 2011, he started 13 and - along with Vince Wilfork - was the most potent inside force the team had.

The son of a retired Army colonel, Love's attention to detail and steady improvement have led to success and a new contract.

But he's paying no attention to the trappings of what he's done.

"I don't really try to get into it too much," Love answered when asked if he's reflected at all on his success. "I just do my job."

In a profession where the employees are constantly reminded, "You're either getting better or you're getting worse..." reflection is anathema to success.

"It doesn't stop," said Love. "It doesn't stop at all. Can't never get complacent, can't never get to the point where you feel relaxed. That's in any field, any job. There's always somebody behind you working hard who wants to do what you can."

NFL careers can be fleeting. By the time a player is conscious he hasn't stopped to smell the roses, the roses may be dead or dying.

Not much they can do about it. Simply a fact. For Love, though, the roses are just reaching bloom.

(See what I did there? It all just tied up real nice...)

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

When it comes to projecting Rob Gronkowski's health, it's been best to steer clear of absolutes. There have been too many injuries, too many surgeries, to predict exactly how he'll feel months in advance. 

Still, in speaking with ESPN's Cari Champion recently, he said he had "no doubt" he'll be ready for Week 1 of the 2017 regular season. 

"Yes, for sure," he replied when asked if he expected to be good to go. 

Gronkowski also fielded a question about his long-term future in the sit-down. Lately it's been his coach Bill Belichick and his quarterback Tom  Brady who receiver all the life-after-football queries, but Gronkowski, 27, was asked how much longer he'd like to play. 

"I’m not really sure," he said. "I mean, I still love playing the game, and as of right now, I want to play as long as I possibly could play. My mindset is to keep on going."

Gronkowski landed on season-ending injured reserve in December after undergoing a procedure on his back -- his third back surgery since 2009. He's had nine reported surgeries -- including procedures on his knee, forearm and ankle -- since his final year at the University of Arizona. 

Gronkowski doesn't think Goodell can visit Gillette: 'The fans are nuts'

Gronkowski doesn't think Goodell can visit Gillette: 'The fans are nuts'

At this point, there may be no getting out of it.

Roger Goodell chose to visit Atlanta twice in as many weeks during its run to a Super Bowl, and in the process he opted not to check in at Gillette Stadium for either the Divisional Round or the AFC title game. But once the Patriots won Super Bowl LI, many felt as though Goodell would simply have no choice but to attend the 2017 regular-season opener in Foxboro. 

There are those who are itching to have him visit. There are those who hope he stays away. In an interview with ESPN, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski didn't put himself in either camp, but he seemed to suggest that it might not be the best idea for the commissioner to show his face in New England.

"To tell you the truth, I really don’t think so," Gronkowski said when asked if Goodell could come back to Foxboro any time soon. "The fans are nuts, they’re wild, and they have the Patriots’ back no matter what. They have Tom’s back. I’m telling you, he won’t get through the highway if the fans saw him. I don’t even think he can even land in the airport in Boston because Patriot fans are the best fans, they’re the most loyal fans. I’m telling you, they might just carry out Roger themselves. They couldn’t even get to the stadium in Foxboro if he landed in Boston."

Goodell hasn't been to Gillette Stadium since Deflategate, but he said during Super Bowl week that he'd be happy to visit if he was invited.