Training camp kicked off in Foxborough and Rob Gronkowski was in his usual dominant form, catching touchdowns on multiple occasions often making it look easy.
But unlike in the past – as recently as this spring – the All-Pro tight end wasn't interested in celebrating his plays with any primal screams, patented dance moves or wild throws into the stands. Instead, Gronkowski simply caught the passes from Tom Brady, found himself in the end zone and turned to jog back toward the offensive huddle.
No frills, just production.
But don't take Gronkowski's lack of enthusiasm as a sign of discontent.
"It felt good. It's good to get out there in the first practice, get the wheels turning, get everything going, get the competition amped up," he said after practice. "It was fun out there. It's a grind. Training camp is a grind. You never know what you're going to get out there and you've got to just keep fighting through it.
"You've got to enjoy what you do. You've got to enjoy the work, and it's fun. We've got good coaches out there. I like working with my coaches, the guys around me, we're always together, working hard, joking around when it's time to joke around and just getting work done which is the main goal."
The offseason was an interesting one in Foxborough to say the least. Among the many issues surrounding the club was Gronkowski's status. First, there were questions on whether or not he was preparing to retire. He did little to squelch those rumors when asked periodically before pledging his intentions to return following a bizarre press conference at Gillette Stadium as part of a SuperCross event he was promoting.
He also dealt with countless questions about his contract, which has two years remaining at what most would consider bargain rates considering some of the deals other pass catchers around the league have signed. There was a belief that the sides would agree to add some money to the deal late in the spring, but as of now nothing has been made public on that front.
"I'm just focused on getting better and it's just internal – internally with stuff like that," Gronkowski said when asked if he was looking for a new contract.
"There's one thing I can do, there's one thing I can worry about and there's one thing that I can control and that's myself, that's my play, that's me going out there doing what I've got to do to help the team."
Several high-profile players around the league are looking for new deals despite being under contract with their respective teams, such as Oakland's Khalil Mack, the Rams Aaron Donald, Seattle's Earl Thomas and Atlanta's Julio Jones. The latter reportedly received extra cash on his 2018 base salary while the other three have thus far chosen to stay away from training camp.
Did Gronkowski ever consider holding out?
"No, it hasn't even came close to considering that. Not even one bit," Gronkowski said. "What I can do, though, is keep preparing, keep showing up every day, keep doing what I've got to do to get better."
Brady and Gronkowski on the field and dominating together after a spring spent mostly away from the team was a major positive on Day 1 of training camp. The tight end said he was happy and the quarterback was his typically surgical self.
The latter fact was not lost on Gronkowski.
"Every single year it's just amazing what he's doing," Gronkowski said. "It's just like he was out here when I first got here. He's full go, always ready to roll and it's just an inspiration basically, just how fast he's always playing and he's ready to roll."
Based on one day of practice, the same could be said for Gronk.