Gronkowski on DBs getting physical in coverage: 'You don't really see it called ever'


Gronkowski on DBs getting physical in coverage: 'You don't really see it called ever'

FOXBORO -- The reality is no one wants to hear it. No one feels bad for the 6-foot-7, 265-pound Thor-looking tight end who is sometimes pestered by defensive backs eight inches shorter and 70 pounds lighter. 

But the reality is Rob Gronkowski has a point. 

Against the Chiefs in the season-opener last week, Gronkowski was covered primarily by safety Eric Berry but there were others as well. All were physical, fighting Gronkowski's strength with their scrappiness. 

At times that scrap included a bump or a grab of the arm down the field. And it wasn't exclusive to Gronkowski. The Chiefs did it to Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan at times as well. It seemed like they took a can't-throw-a-flag-on-every-play approach. 


The officials did call pass interference and defensive holding. Cooks, who measures in at 5-foot-10, 189 pounds, drew three flags on his own.

But for the most part, it worked. Gronkowski was limited to two catches for 33 yards, and despite the occasional plea, he got no calls.

Asked on Thursday if he felt like Kansas City's defensive backs got handsy in coverage, he said "sometimes." He's used to it, he explained, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating.

"If I was one of those DBs, and you've seen film over the last few years, I would definitely be doing that if I was a DB -- 100 percent," he said. "You don't really see it called ever, so I've just got to play with it. Play how the game is called. If I was a DB, I'd do that, too."

The response for Gronkowski might be to fight fire with fire. But he knows if he pushes off, the chances of him being flagged are probably greater than the other way around. 

It's physics. If someone Gronkowski's size bumps a smaller player, the smaller player is more likely to flail like a car dealership inflatable man as he falls to the ground. 

So what's the answer? Gronkowski said he does his best to play his game without concerning himself too much about picking up flags for push-offs.

"I feel like whenever I think about that -- 'I can't be physical because of the referee, I might get a penalty' -- I actually feel myself off my game," he said. "So I feel like I should just play my game and just [not] worry about what the refs call, and be physical.

"I don't like thinking, 'I can't be physical on this play.' You just don't feel right. I'm just going to stick to my game and just do what I got to do, and do it better."

The Saints don't have a three-time First-Team All-Pro safety like Berry, but safety Kenny Vaccaro might be their best bet to try to neutralize Gronkowski for a second straight week.

"He's strong, tough, good tackler . . . physical player," Bill Belichick said of Vaccaro earlier this week. 

How Gronkowski responds to that physicality in New Orleans will be worth monitoring.


Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

File photo

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."