Brady on Gronkowski: 'It's a big void left by such a spectacular player'

Brady on Gronkowski: 'It's a big void left by such a spectacular player'

Tom Brady knows he'll be without his most dynamic offensive weapon for -- in all likelihood -- the remainder of the season.

The Patriots and Rob Gronkowski's family released a joint statement that said the expectation was that the All-Pro's 2016 campaign is over. But even before that statement was released, Brady told Jim Gray of Westwood One Radio on Thursday night that his team had a lot of work to do in order to try to overcome Gronkowski's absence. 

"Well, you know, it doesn't help losing great players," Brady said. "And to not have Gronk out there -- one of our best players and most dependable, consistent players -- and not in the lineup makes things challenging for us. But that's what the NFL season is about. It's about overcoming challenges.

"We have a lot of good players on our team that are going to need to fill the void, and it's a big void left by such a spectacular player in Gronk. But I don't think that any of us are going to give up on what we're trying to accomplish."

The Patriots offense will take on a different look without Gronkowski. They may lean heavily on Martellus Bennett, but their two-tight-end packages may be replaced by more three-receiver sets, meaning more work for either Malcolm Mitchell or Danny Amendola alongside Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels could also turn to his his two-back "pony" sets with both James White and Dion Lewis in the backfield, providing the team with a two dual-threat options. 

However the Patriots proceed, they'll have their work cut out for them. Gronkowski has caught 25 passes for 540 yards -- an average of 21.6 yards per catch, which is a career-high. He's also a captain, something the Patriots and the Gronkowski family referenced in their joint statement Thursday night. 

"He's such a mentally tough person," Brady said. "He's physically tough. He's got such a great energy and spirit about him. We're all wishing him the very best. Nobody wants Gronk not out there. Everybody wants Gronk out there every play of every game. But that's not our reality. We still have a job to do, and we're going to go out there and try to do it as well as we possibly can."

Brady was asked if he had spoken to Gronkowski recently.

"I've seen him the last few days so I've spoken to him a few times," Brady said. "Everyone's thinking about him and what he's gone through. It's such a physical sport, it's hard to see people you care about go through injuries. He's gone through his fair share, but I also know the resolve that he has, and that will never change with him. He'll be as determined as ever to get back and get better as soon as possible."

Josh Allen tweets are evidence he was recently a teenager

AP Photo

Josh Allen tweets are evidence he was recently a teenager

First . . . 

If Twitter existed in 1983, when I was Josh Allen’s age, I probably would have spent less time squeezing blackheads, playing air guitar and reading the little paperback, Truly Tasteless Jokes. 

I worked in a bookstore at the Hanover Mall and that compilation of racial, ethnic, disabled, homophobic, anti-Semitic and mind-bogglingly offensive jokes (there was a subsection of dead baby jokes) was a runaway New York Times bestseller. In fact, it was top-selling paperback in the country that year

Growing up in a not-especially-diverse area, I was at a remove from the people these jokes were most offensive to. 

They were just jokes, just words. I could laugh at jokes about the Irish or about Catholics, even as my mother went bananas any time a nun or priest was lampooned. Having a little sense of humor, being able to laugh at oneself, mocking stereotypes with outrageous humor; I guess that’s the way I viewed the jokes. 

I didn’t know what I didn’t know. But I did know enough not to walk around the house with it. It was hidden next to other reading material under my bed. 

The success of the first book spawned imitators and led to think-pieces, none of which I read. If I had, maybe this quote from a July, 1983 NYT article may have sunk in. 

''There is a lot to make fun of, but not the foibles of human beings who have already suffered a lot,'' said John Hope Franklin, who is the James B. Duke Professor of History at Duke University. ''We should be coming to grips with the dignity of the human spirit, not embarrassing or shaming whole groups of people. The success of these so-called joke books is a sad testament to the taste of this country.''

Or this one from Jacqueline G. Wexler, then-president of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, said: ''I think it's the most wholesome thing in the world when ethnic groups laugh at themselves. But it's dangerous when someone else does it to you, because almost always there's an element of denigration.''

My point, as it relates to Allen, is that when you’re 16 your world doesn’t extend much past the end of your nose. You know right from wrong, sure, but you may not deeply and intimately know why something is truly “wrong” because you haven’t yet developed empathy.  

Thirty-three years later (holy crap), among the tens of thousands of people I have friends, co-workers, relatives -- people I love and respect deeply -- from all sorts of racial, ethnic and religious groups. I can attach faces and feelings to the people those jokes references and I laughed at. When you really reflect on it, it’s embarrassing. 

I’ve turned out mostly OK on most days. I imagine that, despite his tweets from 2012 and 2013, Josh Allen will as well. 

And 5

1. Check out the walk-up song for every prospect who made the trip to be at the first round in person tonight. Five Drake songs were requested by the 22 prospects who’ll be in the room. There are zero for Oingo Boingo. 

2. Peter King wouldn’t have theorized as vividly about the Bill Belichick-Rob Gronkowski-Drew Rosenhaus confab if he wasn’t really plugged in on what went down. And King theorized that Gronk came in from the woods in an effort to prevent being traded.  Adam Schefter’s tweet saying that “there will be no trade this season” is iron-clad as well. And those assurances, in my opinion, are vital for Gronk for two reasons. First, the perception that the team was fixing to deal him this offseason has been lurking for months. Second, Gronk does not want to be separated from Tom Brady. 

3. Gronk’s allusion to his workouts, how terrific he feels and his “pliability” underscore once again  that he feels it’s important to remind everyone how he’s working out and who he’s working out with while he’s been away. I think Alex Guerrero’s great and Gronk’s results (not to mention Brady’s) speak for themselves. Beating everyone over the head with it at every opportunity does nothing to mend the wounds that have clearly opened between Guerrero’s program and the one espoused by Bill Belichick and strength coach Moses Cabrera. Enough. 

4. The release of rapper Meek Mill this week and the remora-like attachment to the cause from Sixers owner Michael Rubin (and, by extension, Robert Kraft) brought to mind the essay by Tom Wolfe from 1970, Radical Chic. All I know about the case is what I’ve read and that means I know that the judge, Genece Brinkley,  seems to be loving the celebrity this has generated. But Wolfe’s essay, which details a 1966 dinner at Leonard Bernstein’s New York apartment in which the city’s ultra-elite hobnobbed with Black Panthers in bizarrely cloying fashion, reminds me of Kraft talking outside the Pennsylvania prison after a recent visit. I mean . . . why?

5. Time invested on a prospect is no guarantee of a team being “sold” on a player. In fact, if a team meets multiple times with a prospect, it’s almost a guarantee there are unresolved issues (injury, character, communication skills) that need further investigation. The report that the Patriots met twice with Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson was viewed as evidence the Pats are hot on his trail. And they may be. The talent and character are there and so is the upside. The level of accuracy and how his skills will translate and develop when running an NFL offense will be developing. There’s boom-or-bust all over him. Here’s a list of players the Patriots hosted in Foxboro (it’s not complete but an interesting read) .



Prototypical Patriots: Ward, Alexander check every box at corner

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Prototypical Patriots: Ward, Alexander check every box at corner

For the Patriots, cornerback falls into the category of positions they could address . . . but don't have to. Trading for Jason McCourty earlier this offseason gave Bill Belichick some proven depth at the position with Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe and Jonathan Jones already on the roster. And if Cyrus Jones can bounce back from injury to give the Patriots anything defensively, that would be a plus. 

Still, you can never have too many corners. And there are a handful in this draft class who fit the Patriots profile. When it comes to cover men Belichick has drafted highly in the past, there are certain physical traits he's after: You should be at least 5-foot-10 and weigh at least 183 pounds; you should run at least a 4.5 (though Logan Ryan and Darius Butler were outliers there); you should clock at least a 6.75-second three-cone (though, again, Butler was slow there); you should have a 4.21-second short-shuttle or better; you should jump at least 33 inches in the vertical and 116 inches in the broad. 

If you're a good tackler, if you can play inside and out, if you can play man and zone, if you have clean footwork? Those improve your chances of being taken by the Patriots even more. 

PROTOTYPICAL PATRIOTS - Previously in the series:

Let's get to some of the prospects in this class who hit most, if not all of those requirements . . . 




Speed to burn (4.32-second 40), explosive athleticism (134-inch broad jump), and experience under both Urban Meyer and Greg Schiano? Ward is undersized by some standards, but the Patriots have no issue with taking sub 6-foot corners. They'd have to trade up to draft Ward, but he might be worth it depending on how far he falls. 


Alexander hasn't received nearly as much as his college teammate Lamar Jackson in terms of being a good fit for the Patriots, but he's one of the best fits in the draft class for New England -- regardless of position. An injury last season may bump him down draft boards, but the Patriots could view any type of slide as a chance to pounce on the aggressive, confident, and extremely quick (4.38-second 40, 6.71 three-cone, 3.98 short shuttle) cover man.


Another coaching connection here for Bill Belichick. Jackson had an incredibly productive year under Kirk Ferentz as a pass-breakup machine. He doesn't meet every athletic marker the Patriots like (4.56 40, 6.86 three-cone), but they might make an exception in order to acquire a player with good size and arguably the best ball skills in the class. He may not make it to No. 23.


Hughes didn't necessarily nail the 40 (4.53 seconds), but he checks just about every other box the Patriots have drafted in the top-100 before at this position. Is he a late first-rounder? An early second-rounder? He's tough, but he'll need to take to the coaching he gets at the next level in order to refine his game. 


Another corner with projectable traits, Oliver has rare length (33.5-inch arms) and size to play press-man on the outside. A decathlete during his freshman season at Colorado, he was named a first-team all-conference corner last season even though his year was shortened due to a leg injury. Oliver also has some punt-return experience. 


Dawson has experience playing in the slot, which the Patriots will like, and he's accustomed to seeing some of the best competition in the country. He has the size the Patriots like from their "star" corners, and he tested well (4.49-second 40). He reportedly made a visit to the Patriots during the pre-draft process and could warrant a Day 2 selection, though his shuttle (4.39 seconds) and three-cone (7.02 seconds) from his pro day were not great. 



Both Anthony Averett and Tony Brown could end up piquing Bill Belichick's interest in this draft. They meet the size requirements of Patriots corners, and they obviously come from the most well-respected college program at One Patriot Place. Athletically, they miss the mark in a couple of areas, but maybe Belichick is willing to look past that. Averett's vertical (31.5 inches), three-cone (6.93 seconds) and short shuttle (4.4 seconds) don't quite meet the standards of top-tier Patriots cornerback picks of the past. Brown's vert (31.5) and three-cone (6.78) are also a shade below the ideal marks in New England. 


One of the fastest players in this year's draft class, Jackson is a little light compared to other Patriots corners Belichick has drafted early. In all likelihood, there's another team out there who would be OK with selecting Jackson before the Patriots are. 

MJ STEWART, UNC, 5-11, 200 

Stewart can cover and play the run. He can play zone or man, inside or outside. Sounds like a Patriot, right? And he may be. But he doesn't hit many of the athletic measures set by other top-tier Patriots draft picks (4.54-second 40, 6.9-second three-cone, 4.28-second short shuttle). His explosiveness is solid, though (35-inch vert, 118-inch broad).


Physically, Hill has just about everything a team could want in a boundary corner. (Though, from a Patriots perspective, his vertical jump and three-cone marks were a little underwhelming.) But there are questions about his maturity that will knock him way down draft boards. He could become a roll-of-the-dice, high-upside pick late in the draft if he's still available on Day 3.