Don’t try to sell me on how Gronk’s goofy, giggling Saturday press conference wasn’t an affront to the Patriots football operation.
It’s one thing to engage in a Cold War with the head coach from a swimming pool in Texas. He’s there, the rest of the team is here . . . fine.
But to stand at the podium in the Gillette Stadium media room in front of a phalanx of cameras and reporters and mock the fact he’s slow-playing his football decision?
Of all the possible reactions Bill Belichick could have, I’m guessing a whispered, “What are we doing?” accompanied by a slow shake of the head would fit.
I’ve already heard every explanation for why it wasn’t a big deal.
He always does this Monster Energy Supercross promotion.
He’s a paid sponsor.
He’s doing it for the Krafts, they are his bosses.
Voluntary offseason workout are, ya know, VOLUNTARY last time I checked, big nose.
Come on. We live in New England. Boston is the Athens of America. We’re going to swear off critical thinking for this legendary and lovable tight end? We’re not really going to be obtuse about this, are we? For every action, there’s a reaction. What do you think the reaction of people involved in football -- which was the springboard for Gronk to become a brand and celebrity -- might have been?
His teammates who got to town earlier in the week for the first phase of voluntary workouts? The coaching staff that’s trying to convince newly-signed free agents that this place is what they always heard it was? Fellow captains like Devin McCourty, Matt Slater or David Andrews, who are watching Gronk, a two-time captain, put a digit in the air to the organization by not just staying away from what we’ve always been told is a critical period in the team-building process but smearing the team’s face in it from the podium?
Here’s Jerod Mayo from last week’s Quick Slants The Podcast on the team’s approach to these workouts:
By now, some of you are yelling at your screen about Gronk having A RIGHT TO TRAIN IN THE OFFSEASON THE WAY HE WANTS TO!!!! HE’S UNDERPAID!!! YOU GUYS JUST LOVE THE DRAMA!!! BILL BENCHED BUTLER!!!
And you are missing my point. Just keep it to Saturday. How does that go over with the football people? Now expand it a little and consider that Gronk -- by promoting this stadium event regardless of his personal stake in it -- aligned himself neatly with ownership’s interests. Even if ownership didn’t know a single thing about it.
Gronk just blissfully nodded and allowed himself to be led wherever the motocross people wanted him to be led and by not allowing it to dawn on him and say, “This might send the wrong message to my teammates . . . ” Gronk did damage on Saturday. Then flew back to Texas, apparently.
So what's next?
If you’re Belichick, how much of this push, push, pushing do you accept before you decide that this is undercutting your authority? What’s the play here?
Do you just throw an extra $4 million at a player who’s openly and gleefully defying you because he’s the best player at his position and you need him?
That would be . . . a departure from what's normal. To say the least.
Trade Gronk? A player who has sent the message he’s considering retirement and has had multiple surgeries might not yield much return, but is it getting to the point you can’t worry about the return. And what if he doesn’t report? Then you are where you were. And one has to consider as well Tom Brady’s reaction to Gronk being jettisoned.
Wait it out without doing anything? You can take solace in the fact that, even if they’re not on your program, they are still working out as maniacally as ever. Their work comes with the subtweet that undercuts – their program at TB12 with Alex Guerrero trumps the strength-and-conditioning on the team program – but you reap the benefits
Besides, this is just Week 2 of the first phase of offseason workouts. It’s April. No games scheduled for this weekend, as Belichick has grown fond of saying.
Sometimes, the best decision is to make no decision at all.
Which was probably a lot easier for Belichick to stick to before Gronk toddled to the podium on Saturday.