PATRIOTS TIGHT END ROB GRONKOWSKI
Q: How does it feel to be entering your ninth season?
RG: It feels good. I mean, it feels like any other season, just preparing hard. We've got game preparation this week, so it's all going good.
Q: This is the first time we've talked to you since you signed your new contract. Is it a relief to get that over with?
RG: I mean, it's definitely a relief to have that all out of the way. That was last week, and now that's in the past which is good and just can put my main focus on the Houston Texans now.
Q: What is it like making the shift from preseason football to regular season football? How does the energy change around the facility and how does your mindset change?
RG: Everything changes. I mean, preseason football - it's high-level football, but when it comes down to the regular season, it's even higher-level football. Everything's just faster, quicker and you've just got to be thinking all the time. You've got to be on top of your game mentally and physically because it's bring-it time.
Q: Do you offer any words of advice to rookies at this time of year to help coach them along?
RG: I mean, just be prepared. I mean, it's going to be fast. Just get mentally ready so you're ready for that so you can just go out there and perform.
Q: When it comes to your contract, is that something that was in the works for a while and did it weigh on you at all as you were preparing for the season?
RG: I mean, it didn't weigh on me at all. Everything's always in the works. I mean, nothing's just going to happen in a day, something like that. So, it's in the past now. It happened last week, so it's go time now. That's all.
Q: Were you happy with how it turned out?
RG: Yes, definitely.
Q: There are a lot of players around the league getting new contracts. Has it been frustrating for you to watch how it's turned out elsewhere?
RG: No, I mean, I'm super satisfied with my situation. I mean, if I wasn't, then I would try and pull a move like they do which works out. They get rewarded for holding out. But I'm not frustrated at all or anything. I'm super satisfied and just ready to go, ready to play. That's my main focus.
Q: When you talk about the best quarterback-tight end combinations in football, some people talk about Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates. Did you see that he is coming back this season?
RG: Yes, I did. Super nice.
Q: People also talk about you and Tom Brady chasing those two guys. How much of that is a source of price for you to have that connection with Tom and be in that conversation?
RG: I mean, we never really thought about it like that. Playing around here, practicing around here - I mean, you really don't have that concept in your mind. I mean, basically that just falls in the place with what we're trying to do and that's putting the team first, that's doing my job, that's getting open, that's getting on the same page as Tom, as the receivers, as the offensive linemen, whatever it is. So, that focus just happens to come with it if you're just putting everything first with what you've got to do.
Q: Phillip Dorsett said this week that he had to learn to think like Brady. For you, what is that like to get on the same page with Brady?
RG: I mean, I would definitely say that's a good mind[set] by Phil for sure. You've definitely got to - that's kind of like saying you've got to be on the same page as him. You've got to have the chemistry with him. That's over time. I mean, you don't just pick it up like that. I mean, it's something you've got to work at every single week. I'm lucky enough to be going on year nine now, so I understand how he thinks. I mean, obviously I don't know exactly how he thinks - I'm not him - but you've got to be on the same page with your quarterback. You've got to be on the same page with your offensive linemen, with the receivers in order to go out there and put a productive offense out there.
Q: Is it a matter of getting reps with Tom? Is it a matter of picking his brain? Is it something that we don't see that helps you make that kind of connection with him?
RG: Yes. I mean, it's everything. It's not just one piece where if you just work on routes, you're going to get the chemistry going with Tom. It's watching some film with him. It's running extra routes with him. It's going out there and talking about what you did wrong, what you did right. It's not just like, 'Oh, that was a nice route.' It's talking to him about why it was a nice route, why it wasn't a nice route. So, it's putting all the pieces together and putting all the days together working with him to be able to get on the same page.
Q: Can you tell Tom that you don't like the way he's doing it?
RG: I mean, now I can. Back in the day, I couldn't. But no, you really don't have to. I mean, he's just so on top of his game and just how many years, all the experience he has, it's just unreal. So, there's rarely a time - I mean, if I do, I laugh about it.
Q: Jalen Ramsey had some interesting remarks recently about you. Did you have any reaction to those?
RG: I mean, we've got the Houston Texans this week. That will just be another time and place to talk about. But, as of right now, just really focused on the Texans and just worrying about their players and their defense and that's all.
Q: Are you saying we can pick that one up next week?
RG: Possibly. I mean, it's going to get asked next week, too.
Q: How do you feel entering Week 1 of the regular season?
RG: I mean, I feel pretty good. Just been enjoying myself, coming in, working hard out on the practice field, enjoying the time out there - whatever it is, whatever I've got to do out there - and just feel good and super excited for the game coming up.
Q: With Julian Edelman's suspension and lack of depth at wide receiver, do you feel any pressure heading into the season to do more?
RG: I mean, there's always pressure around this building, no matter what the situation is. When you lose a guy - for example, when they lose me out there on the field - the goal is just to keep on maintaining what you're doing, keep on focusing what you've got to do. Whatever the coaches come with to you, if they want you to do more, then you can focus on that and just keep focusing on your job. No matter who's in there, who's not, I've just got to keep focusing on my job and keep helping the team in the best way I can. So, it's never really like, 'Oh, I've got to do more, I've got to do this more, I've got to do this better,' because I'm always trying to do that. So, you've just got to keep doing your job and just keep playing well, no matter who's around, who's in.
Q: What's it like blocking a guy like J.J. Watt or Jadeveon Clowney?
RG: I mean, they're unreal talents. They're great players and you definitely need help to block those guys. I mean, if that's what the coaches ask me to do, if that's the play call, I've got to go in there and I've got to get my nose dirty. I've got to do what they need me to do for this team, and it's to block whoever, it's to maybe help out an offensive lineman, help out a tackle before I go out on a route. No matter what it is, just got to get out there and get dirty with it.
Q: How important is it to identify where they are on the field when you line up on the line of scrimmage?
RG: It's super important, but I mean, they've got a lot of good pass rushers on this team. So, you can't really be too focused on one because they've got plenty out there.
Q: Bill O'Brien just finished talking about how important it is to defend the middle of the field. Do you feel like teams are starting to invest in more players like Tyrann Mathieu to defend the middle of the field to counter offenses? Have you noticed more talented players in the middle of the field?
RG: I mean, I just don't know. I see talented players across the whole field. I just really haven't seen the concept since I've been in the NFL, like, 'Hey, we've got the concept. We're just stopping everyone from the middle of the field and letting everything else play out.' I've never really seen that before. I mean, there's coverages I've run into where I know the ball is definitely not coming to me because there's a lot of guys in the middle, a lot of coverage in the middle, but I've never really heard of that concept of, 'We're bringing in guys to get the middle of the field.' I mean, you've got to cover the whole field. It's football.
Q: What have you noticed from Mathieu?
RG: He's a good player. He's a ball hawk. He can get to the ball, reads the quarterback well and you've got to be ready at all times because when the ball's in the air, he's going for it, too.
Q: When Coach O'Brien was here, he seems like a pretty fiery guy...
RG: Yes, definitely.
Q: Did he ever get in your face? Do you have a story about that?
RG: No, I mean, it's just football. I mean, things like that happen all the time. But, no, he's a great coach, a great coach to play for and he definitely has that fierce competitiveness to him which is good. That's why he's the head coach of the Texans now.
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