Rob Gronkowski has a reputation for playing hard, on and off the field. With his spiky hair and endearingly goofy smile, the second-year tight end owns one of the most unique personalities in the Patriots locker room.
As different as he is, though, he's not the only Gronk in town these days. Big brother Dan, another tight end, joined the team earlier this week. Four years older than Rob, Dan – in his third NFL season – appeared a bit more subdued than his rambunctious sibling, perhaps because he has so much on his mind right now as he tries to digest New England's playbook.
"It's been all business since I've been here," he declared. "Just trying to get this stuff down for the game [Monday night in Miami]. I'm getting right into it … just talking to Bill [Belichick, the head coach] right after I signed, he made the point that it's all business, we're not messing around here. Just focus on the game."
Having a brother on the team isn't the only aspect that's helping the new Gronkowski get a handle on his new job. After playing last season in Denver under Josh McDaniels, the former Patriots offensive coordinator who brought his system to the Broncos as their brief head coach, Gronkowski the elder has found the fit so far to be a natural one.
"I know a lot from being in Josh McDaniels' offense. There's a lot of similarity. Meetings are the exact same," he explained. "They want you to work hard, put in the time, get out there and play good. I'm definitely used to it. The playbook is very similar [to Denver's]. A good portion of it is exactly the same. There are just little things I have to learn and pick up on."
Each night this week, Dan revealed, he goes back to his hotel, hangs out with Rob, and the two spend the remainder of their waking hours discussing one subject.
"Yeah, it's awesome playing with my brother," Dan conceded, "but it's all business right now. We're not out celebrating or anything. It's all football and all we're talking about at home. He's definitely helping me out, if I have any questions. We're just sitting there and talking basically the whole night. It's all football at home right now. It's not like I came in during the offseason where I could have some fun with him.
"This definitely helps, coming to the Patriots and being in a system like this, and just having my brother here," he added. "Everybody knows his personality. I kind of fit right in. It feels like I've been here for a while now and it's only been a couple of days. I can jump in the huddle right now and feel like I'm part of it already. I think everyone feels comfortable with me in there."
So, how are he and his brother different, he was asked?
"I mean, we're both hard-working guys and … we want to get his playbook down right now and focus on the game. That's what we're both all about: playing football and getting the job done," he replied.
Dan may still have some work to do on the Patriots playbook, but he already seems to have gotten the idea to stick to the script when talking to the media here in New England.
And in that way, at the very least, he is fitting right in.
Welker anxious for kickoff
After several days of steady downpours in New England, wide receiver Wes Welker is even more ready to head south to the tropical climate of his former home team. The Patriots visit the Dolphins for the first of a Monday night double-header on opening weekend.
"The first game's always antsy, whether you're the first game [of the weekend] or the last. Definitely excited to get out there and play Miami and hopefully get a little better weather as well," added Welker with a smile.
He was then asked if the new rules concerning practices times and conditions have had a noticeable effect on the team's overall health to start the year.
"To be honest with you," he answered, "I feel about the same. I feel like we've gotten after it pretty good during practice this week, and having the extra days seems even longer. But at the end of the day, hopefully we're a little more refreshed and ready to go."
The extra preparation time may be beneficial to Welker, too, as he tries to study who will be covering him. The Dolphins' top two cornerbacks on the outside are Vontae Davis and Sean Smith, but Welker usually lines up in the slot and typically faces the inside corners.
"They're both big, athletic type guys. Davis runs really well, breaks on the football really well. Sean Smith is a bigger guy, long arms, runs really well for his size," said Welker.
"I think you have to study everybody, and I think there are times where I may see the outside guys. But you have to be ready for everybody, especially it being the first game and not knowing exactly how they're going to play you. We'll see as the game goes on."
Playing the good Solder
We've not seen right tackle Sebastian Vollmer on the practice field since August 30, and as Monday night approaches, it appears more and more likely that he won't be available. That means rookie Nate Solder will likely start in his place.
"I'm absolutely ready to go," Solder told reporters Friday. "Whatever situation I'm put in, it's because the coaches have confidence in me to be in there. ... It's just a building process for me. I'm just one cog in this wheel."
Solder, a left tackle throughout his college career, has been forced to play both sides thus far in the pros.
"People think it's not a big deal, but sometimes it is difficult to do that," he explained. "When you're playing on the left, you're going to be working with your inside hand [if you're right-handed]. So, a lot of those [techniques] kind of flip."
Possibly having to face Miami's ferocious pass rusher, Cameron Wake, awaits Solder this Monday, and he says he's been working hard to meet that challenge, if it comes. But there's one thing Solder insists he ready for – his hair to grow back. Solder, like all the other rookies, received their unflattering initiation haircuts last week from the veterans and he's now sporting a crew cut.
For details on today's Patriots practice, please visit the PFW blog.