Watching Rob Gronkowski run around a football field this spring, you'd never he's only a few months removed from yet another surgery on his back. The tight end has taken part fully in spring practice sessions with teammates in Foxborough and spoke on the record Tuesday for the first time since returning to full-time activity.
"I'm 100 percent. Good to go," he declared.
Gronkowski has undergone similar procedures in the past, dating back to his college days at the University of Arizona, as well as a number of other operations for various other ailments since joining the Patriots in 2010. However, unlike some previous offseasons, Gronkowski has not been limited in what he's been asked to do on the football field. Furthermore, he claimed he never doubted that he'd be at this stage of recovery following his most recent medical challenge.
"No, definitely no doubts. I just know that all the hard work you put in is what you're going to get out of it. I love to put in the work. [I] love the challenge sometimes. It is what it was and now I'm good to go."
Gronkowski's medical history is certainly something that bears monitoring with respect to his immediate future on the field. There's no denying, though, that when at full strength, Gronkowski is one of the most elite players ever to play tight end.
With both factors in mind, perhaps, Gronkowski and the Patriots agreed to a reworked contract this offseason that reportedly is based on playing time and other performance milestones. The 28-year-old could earn significantly more this season – as much as $5.5 million or as little as $1 million – if he reaches certain statistical targets. He'd been scheduled to earn $5.25 million this season on his current contract, which expires after the 2019 season.
The extra spring in his step so far this spring might be a combination of his improved health and financial situations.
"I'm definitely very thankful for the opportunity that the Patriots organization has [given] me," Gronkowski acknowledged. "I just have to keep working hard and do what's best for the team and do what's best for myself to help out the team in every way possible."
Check out our favorite photos from the Patriots mini-camp on Tuesday, June 6, 2017.
Like Gronkowski, backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo would welcome a contract extension offer from the Patriots, he indicated when asked about it directly after Tuesday's practice.
"I entertain any possibility," he proclaimed, before quickly adding, "I'm not really thinking about too much right now."
Garoppolo, whose original rookie contract expires after this season, was the subject of considerable media speculation earlier this offseason. It was thought that he could be a valuable trading chip for New England, but the Patriots elected to keep him – at least for the time being – rather than deal him.
The Patriots will have to revisit Garoppolo's situation come the end of this season. In the interim, he maintained that his long-term future isn't preoccupying this thoughts at the moment.
"There's just so much going on with [spring practices] and training camp is right around the corner. That's where my focus is. We'll cross that bridge when we get there, I guess.
"It's your career, so, you're obviously thinking about it a bit," Garoppolo conceded, "but I mean with OTAs and everything going on, there's plenty to think about with that."
It was a sentiment echoed by Garoppolo's fellow signal caller, second-year man Jacoby Brissett, who half-joked with reporters that he didn't know what he was doing when he took part in his first camp with the Patriots a year ago.
"Take it slow, cherish each day, get better each day and worry about the next day the next day," Brissett smiled.
"I think I'm working my tail off each day. I hope I'm out here getting better. I'm working my tail off to do that. I've been given the opportunity to go out there and have the opportunity to get better so I'm just trying to make the most of the opportunity."
Working hard, weather or not
It's felt more like early November than early June around these parts lately. Temps barely reached 50 degrees Fahrenheit Tuesday as a persistent rain pelted the Patriots' practice fields throughout their 2-plus-hour on-field session.
The head coach seemed pleased with the effort put forth by his players to this point in the spring.
"This is our sixth practice, first one of minicamp but sixth one counting [organized team activities]. Just trying to move things along in the right direction. I think the players have worked hard. We have a long way to go. We've got a lot to work on."
Belichick was asked about his decision to move his younger son, Brian, a scouting assistant last season, over to the coaching staff this year, where he'll be a coaching assistant.
"Just trying to make our staff as efficient as possible," he remarked.
Belichick's other son, Steve, is in his second season as New England's safeties coach.
The reigning Super Bowl champs will resume mini-camp practices late Wednesday morning, when weather conditions are expected to be only slighter improved over Tuesday. A third mini-camp session will take place on Thursday around midday as well.