Before yesterday's game between the Patriots and the Saints came to its dramatic conclusion, Fox Sports color analyst Troy Aikman made some comments that further stirred the pot concerning Rob Gronkowski's availability.
In short, Aikman relayed a conversation he had with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in which Brady told Aikman that Gronkowski was New England's "best" player at practice.
Considering that earlier in the day ESPN's Ed Werder had come out with a report saying there was some "resentment" among Gronkowski's Patriots teammates that the big tight end was not on the field, Aikman's account was headline-worthy.
Monday morning, on WEEI's Dennis and Callahan Show, Brady was asked about Aikman's story. Was it true? Had Brady actually said that Gronkowski was the best player out on the Patriots practice field?
Brady didn't deny it.
"Gronk would be the best player on any team with what he's able to do," Brady said. "Just watching him in practice, yeah he's doing great. His rehab's coming along well. Whenever he's ready he's ready. I don't make those decisions. Of course every player wants guys to play, but I can't . . . If someone says he can't play, then he can't play.
"I said it earlier last week, if he's out there, he's out there. If he's not, then we still gotta find a way to win. I love Gronk, and I love what he brings to our team, and I know how badly he wants to be out there on the field. He's a tough guy. If there's one thing you know about Rob Gronkowski it's how tough he is and how mentally tough he is. Whenever he's ready, if that's next week or five weeks from now, whenever that may be, that's certainly gonna help our team. But all those medical decisions are left to other people."
Brady explained that there is no lack of desire to play on Gronkowski's part.
"Well he's not being cleared to play so I don't know what you can do," Brady said. "He wants to be cleared to play. Believe me he wants to be out there playing football. You think in games like that yesterday where you see the excitement of the game and what the team's all about and to be out there with all your friends . . . That's killing him not to be out there with us. Rob's a great teammate, he's all about the team and always has been.
"He's just gotta keep rehabbing and doing what he's asked to do, and when he's ready to play he's ready to play."