PHOENIX – Few Patriots, even Tom Brady, generate the kind of attention that Rob Gronkowski does daily at the Super Bowl. While there are perhaps even fewer players around the league that possess his raw ability to dominate a football game, Gronkowski's fame isn't always based on his skills.
And that's too bad.
There's no doubt that Gronkowski enjoys life. He's more than willing to play along with the media, especially when those asking the question happen to be attractive females – as has often been the case this week.
But to dismiss him as a happy-go-lucky goofball surfing his way through his career on the back of his incredible football gifts would be doing him a tremendous disservice. Gronkowski is one of the most committed players on the Patriots roster, andBill Belichick made that abundantly clear on Thursday.
"Rob's a smart football player. He understands a lot of things about the game. Not just the Xs and Os but also how he's getting matched up individually and what our opponents are trying to do given the situation," Belichick said. "I think he has an understating on depending on what he's getting what he needs to do to try to counter it. He's worked hard on that. He's seen a lot of different coverages or getting jammed at the line or whatever teams have tried to do. He's a good football player. He's a smart player."
"I'd say Tom Brady is a great example of that. Rob, Devin, Vince … all of them. Those guys are smart football players. They came to us as smart football players but through experience and more situations and more understanding of not only what they're doing but what other people are doing and opponents are doing in those situations you can always improve on it."
The tight end himself understands the perception, but he also understands the importance of his craft.
"I feel like they underestimate the hard work and dedication behind the scenes for everyone," Gronkowski said. "Just going in the weight room when it's your time to work out, the meetings behind the scenes, the practicing during the week.
"I mean, I feel like some people just look at it like you go out there on game day and play, but that's not really the case. You always have to be taking care of your body throughout the whole week, in the morning and all the way through nighttime, getting sleep. So, people kind of underestimate the hard work and dedication that goes into the week to get prepared for the games on Sunday."
His teammates certainly understand how committed Gronkowski is. Fellow tight end Michael Hoomanawanui explained how detailed his recollections of opponents' coverages can be.
"He is very studious. He takes his job very seriously," Hoomanawanui said. "The way the defenses play him is different each and every week, whether it's single coverage, double coverage, triple coverage. Whatever it is, he can always recall the last team to do it, or if it's a team that we're playing, he can recall what they did last time. He's very good at that."
Having Gronkowski healthy for the Super Bowl is one of the biggest advantages the Patriots have in the game. The Seahawks have struggled defending tight ends at times, allowing 11 touchdowns during the season, and nobody finds the end zone with more proficiency than Gronkowski.
Coming off a torn ACL, Gronkowski finished with 82 catches for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns. And come Sunday, he and Seattle safetyKam Chancellor figure to engage in one of the game's most memorable battles.
Rest assured, Gronkowski will be prepared for that fight.