Belichick on Gronkowski's record-setting 69th TD: 'Love to see those touchdowns'

Belichick on Gronkowski's record-setting 69th TD: 'Love to see those touchdowns'

Rob Gronkowski stepped to the podium Sunday afternoon after scoring his franchise record 69th touchdown, and did none of the things the world expected him to do. There were no crude jokes. There were no awkward winks at any of the reporters standing in his line of sight. 

Instead he credited his teammates. He thanked his mom. Maybe Gronkowski, now in his seventh season, really is maturing. Maybe? 

"Definitely an honor to come home to my hometown and get that record to hold the franchise record for most touchdowns is just unbelievable," he said. "I gotta give a lot of credit to my teammates, my coaches, just always working together and making strides every single day that we step out on the practice field. Just seeing everyone, how they work, seeing all the opportunities the coaches gave me, and giving some credit to myself, working hard every single day to get to where I need to be, it's just an awesome experience."

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He added: "I want to give a shout out to my mom, too. The first thing yesterday, we sat down, I saw her, she came to my hotel . . . She said, 'Rob, I'm so proud of you when you score your 69th touchdown. I was like, I gotta give her a shout out now for sure for letting me know she's super proud of me. So hi, mom. And thank you."

Gronkowski caught five passes for 109 yards on his record-setting day, and in the process he showed that there are multiple ways he can gash a defense. He caught an out-and-up for 18 yards on the sideline. He snared a back-shoulder throw and dragged multiple defenders for 33 yards. For the record, passing former Patriots receiver Stanley Morgan, he caught a 53-yard post in single-coverage.

"Stanley Morgan actually called me to congratulate me," Gronkowski said. "He was an awesome player, awesome guy, and he said congrautlantions, and it was pretty cool. To get a phone call from him already in the lcoker room right after the game, that's something special."

Gronkowski is in the middle of one of the most productive stretches of his career, blowing up on a weekly basis since Tom Brady's return in Week 5. He now has 22 catches for 484 yards this season for a whopping 22.0 yards per catch average. 

"It's a great accomplishment," Brady said of Gronkowski's record, "and he's a dynamic player for us, there's no doubt. He makes great plays in the pass game, down the field, intermediate, short. He's tough to tackle. He's got a great enthusiasm about him. He's just done an amazing job since he's been here. It's a credit to him and his toughness, his mental toughness. I've always talked about that with him and his ability to overcome the things that he's faced in his career to get to this point."

Gronkowski's coach Bill Belichick was equally proud of his All-Pro tight end after the game.

"Love it," Belichick said with a smile when asked about Gronkowski's place in the record books. "Love to see those touchdowns . . . Does whatever you ask him to do. Very unselfish player. Great to coach. Given us great leadership as a captain. Something he hasn't done in the past. That's kind of been a new role for him, and he's embraced that. Done well for us there, too."

Gronkowski has come a long way from donning a Patriots helmet at the draft and partaking in a mini mosh pit after he was selected in the second round. He's one of the longet-tenured Patriots in the locker room, a leader, and now the all-time leader in touchdowns for one of the most storied franchises in league history. 

If it seems to you like he's come a long way, imagine how he feels, returning to the place where he grew up going to games with his family and friends. 

"We never envisioned it like that," Gronkowsk said. "I never envisioned it like that. Definitely envisioned big things, though. But nothing on a scale of being like this. It's just unbelievable. Coming back to my hometown where I grew up, watching all the Bills games versus the Patriots, it's just an unbelievable honor."

Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

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Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

Johnny Manziel said 10 days ago, "I'd go to New England in a heartbeat," when asked about the Patriots as a potential landing spot.

That seemed like wishful thinking at the time, but they're taking a look at him...along with 12 other NFL teams, according to ESPN's Eric Williams. 

Tom Brady's current backup Brian Hoyer is, like Manziel, an ex-Cleveland Browns quarterback. Manziel would again be competing with Hoyer for the Pats' No. 2 job should New England take a chance on "Johnny Football", the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M, who's been out of football the past two years because of substance abuse and emotional problems.

FOX Sports' Bruce Feldman had it at 12 teams watching Manziel work out at the University of San Diego and said the Patriots gave Manziel a weigh-in.


Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

The Patriots have agreed to re-sign offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, his agent Scott Casterline confirmed on Twitter.  Waddle hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year began and made a visit to the Cowboys earlier this week. In the end, though, he chose to return to the team that claimed him off of waivers at the end of the 2015 season.

Waddle, who turns 27 in July, appeared in 12 games last season for the Patriots. He was the first right tackle the Patriots turned to when Marcus Cannon suffered an ankle injury mid-season against the Chargers. He ended up playing 51 snaps against the likes of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram without allowing a sack. He then started the next three games against the Broncos, Raiders and Dolphins and held star rushers Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Cameron Wake -- all of whom rush primarily off of the offensive right -- without a sack. 

Injuries forced Waddle (380 snaps on the season) to split the right tackle position with Cameron Fleming (543 snaps), but he was the primary backup when healthy. Waddle started the Divisional Round playoff game against the Titans but suffered a knee injury and was removed for Fleming. 

Both Fleming and Waddle visited the Cowboys this week, and the fact that Waddle has re-signed with the Patriots may impact Fleming's decision moving forward. 

The Patriots went to great lengths to build tackle depth last season, and adding Waddle to the roster helps them retain some of that depth after losing their left tackle, Nate Solder, to the Giants via free agency. Waddle could be an option on the left side, but the vast majority of his work since entering the league as an undrafted rookie in 2013 has been on the right side. 

The Patriots now have Fleming, Marcus Cannon, Cole Croston, Tony Garcia and Andrew Jelks on their depth chart at tackle. Croston, Garcia and Jelks are all headed into their second years as pros. Croston remained on the 53-man roster all season -- an indication that the Patriots liked him enough not to expose him to the waiver system -- but did not see meaningful snaps. Garcia and Jelks both missed the entirety of the 2017 season on reserve lists. 

Once the Patriots lost Solder to the Giants, it seemed to be of paramount importance that the Patriots re-sign either Waddle or Fleming. Behind Cannon, there were simply too many question marks not to have one return. The Patriots could opt to draft a tackle, but this is considered an average year at that position in that there are few ready-made NFL players and several developmental types.

Before the Super Bowl last season, I asked offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia how the team was able to manage offensively with backups at right tackle for much of the season. 

"It's not like [Fleming and Waddle are] not good players," Scarnecchia said. "They are good players. Their skill set seemed to fit that position pretty well. They have the traits that we covet. And they're both really smart guys, very willing learners, and they're both driven to be good and they want to play good. And I think all those things have manifested themselves when they've been out there playing. And we've been very, very pleased with what they've done for us this year, essentially splitting that position."

Asked about the aspects of the game the Patriots worked on with both Waddle and Fleming last year, Scarnecchia said, "For us it transcends everything. Obviously run-blocking and pass-blocking. They're both good at those things. Are they great at those things? No. But they've been able to steadily improve over the last two years to the point where we put them out there and no one's worried. And it's been that way the whole season after Marcus got hurt. Yeah they've done a nice job for us."