FOXBORO - He is Spicoli in shoulder pads. Minus, presumably, the weed and the surfing. The best pure tight end in football, Rob Gronkowski, added to his burgeoning legend Monday night with four catches for 96 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of earth-denting "Gronk Smash!" spikes. He's got 56 catches for 805 yards and 10 touchdowns. He's second in the NFL in catches, third in yards and first in touchdowns. He will be an All-Pro. He will be in the Pro Bowl. He will also give himself away in a raffle to spend Christmas Eve in the company of Gronk. He will no longer be photographed willingly with porn stars. He will live the Gronk Life and everyone with even a molecule of fun in their being will smile at what appears to be the harmless, laid-back, fun-seeking idiocy of a 22-year-old blessed with a body that's perfect for his vocation. "I call it maximizing the adventure of the NFL," was the response of veteran Gerard Warren when I asked him Monday night about the odd soul a few lockers away. By the time I talked to Warren, Gronkowski's postgame interview with ESPN had ended. With reporters surrounding his locker, he decided to get his media commitments out of the way all at once. He began to peel off his coat then decided he liked the way it looked and left it on. Thinking aloud as he made each decision, feigning seriousness as he faced the throng, this is how the interview went. Gronk was asked about his neck which he landed on when he scored a touchdown in the third quarter. "Feels great. I think it feels better (than it did)."The thunderous spike. Did he almost forget to do it after his crash landing. "I wasn't really thinking of it until I did it. It's just what it is, what it is."Gronkowski punctuated that with a strange cackle. Perhaps a realization that he'd mangled perhaps theeasiest catchphrase New England's football team has: "It is what it is."The medical staff. What did they ask you after the spike?"They were just asking me questions like they gotta. IfI was fine and everything I was just fine. I just got the wind knocked out of me a little bit. You know how that is when that happens."Ya know, among the group he was addressing, there wasn't a one of us who appeared capable of executing the move Gronkowski made without ending up eating through a straw for the rest of their life. So, actually, no. Nobody's had the wind knocked out of them like that. But the trainers, you guys were laughing?"Yeah, they're always cracking jokes. Trainers are cool."What were they asking you, math problems?"I just, yeah. They kept asking me then I started throwing out my own math problems. "They were like, 'Dude, count to 10.' I started counting to 10. It was pretty easy though. They kept letting me play."Now, as I read back what I've written it's easy to see where someone would think I'm making fun of Gronk. But there's no malice. The kid is without guile, without polish, without apology. He is simply him. And he does his best to accomodate requests and do his job with a level of enjoyment that, simply,makes you wish there were a few more Gronks around.You say, "That's how I'd be . . . " if you were good enough and lucky enough to be in the NFL at the level he's at. But almost all of us wouldn't be. You're either born like Gronk or you're not. You can't change the wiring. The best you can do is appreciate the player and appreciate that he, simply, appreciates what the hell's happening. "It's still pretty crazy," he admitted in the moment most closely resembling deep thought. "It's still a dream come true being in the NFL. Some days I wake up. I talk to Dane Fletcher, a Patriots linebacker, my roommate and we're like, 'Dude, we're in the NFL.' It's crazy like, we still can't kinda believe it. It's playing with all these great players and everything that we looked up to when we were in high school even in middle school. It's so much fun coming out, you have to try and treat every moment like your last."God willing, the last of Gronk is a long ways off.
Tom Giles and CSN Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran discuss Donald Trump mentioning Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in his speech and the questioned asked by the media to Belichick and Brady in response.
FOXBORO -- The Patriots will head into Sunday's AFC title game with seven players listed as questionable, including three receivers.
Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan have all been limited in practices this week due to their injuries. Amendola has been dealing with an ankle issue since a Week 13 win over the Rams, while Mitchell has not played since injuring his knee in Week 16 against the Jets. Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans and left the game in the third quarter.
Both Hogan and Mitchell indicated this week that they were moving in the right direction in terms of their recoveries. One would think that the Patriots would need at least one, if not both, to help stress the back end of the Steelers secondary this weekend.
Hogan has been the team's most consistent down-the-field threat this season, averaging a whopping 17.9 yards per catch during the regular season. Against the Texans, before his injury, he reeled in four passes for 95 yards.
Mitchell, meanwhile, had a very productive second half of his rookie season before he was hurt. He compiled 25 catches for 306 yards between Weeks 11 and 16, establishing himself as one of Tom Brady's go-to targets.
The overall health of the Patriots receiving corps -- which will also include Julian Edelman and Michael Floyd -- will bear watching when the Patriots and Steelers kick off in two days.
The injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Steelers game:
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
WR Danny Amendola (ankle)
TE Martellus Bennett (knee)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Dont'a Hightower (shoulder)
WR Chris Hogan (thigh)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (knee)
DL Jabaal Sheard (knee)
TE Ladarius Green (concussion/illness)
LB James Harrison (shoulder/triceps)
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (concussion)
RB Le'Veon Bell (not injury related)
K Chris Boswell (illness)
LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle)
S Sean Davis (shoulder)
C B.J. Finney (illness)
WR Darrius Heyward-Bay (illness)
DE Ricardo Mathews (ankle)
QB Zach Mettenberger (illness)
S Michael Mitchell (not injury related)
QB Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related)
LB Vince Williams (shoulder)