FOXBORO -- Tom Brady will turn 40 on Thursday. It's odd, yes, that one of the best quarterbacks in the league is about to enter into his fifth decade on this planet, but put that aside for a moment. When Patriots training camp is underway and Brady's birthday rolls around, as it does every year, there is a standard operating procedure.
Without fail, the crowd will at some point sing Brady "Happy Birthday." Brady will then acknowledge their efforts with a quick wave or a thumbs-up or something of the sort. Then Brady's teammates will be asked about their old quarterback once practice is over. Brady will, in all likelihood, not be made available until a later date.
That's usually how it goes. But on Wednesday, one of the above steps came early.
"What do you get a guy like Tom Brady for his birthday," Rob Gronkowski was asked?
"I get him touchdowns," the big tight end said with a smile. "You’ve got to catch the ball. That’s all he wants – his receivers, tight ends, running backs to catch the ball. So that’s probably what he wants tomorrow."
Gronkowski has done that his fair share over the course of training camp, although he's been relatively quiet with his performances in recent days. He was not targeted with a pass in team drills on Wednesday. On Tuesday, he caught all four passes thrown his way by Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo.
As a blocker, he's been effective at times but not dominant. He sealed off Harvey Langi during one run play late in practice on Wednesday. On Sunday he stopped Kyle Van Noy to help Rex Burkhead scamper into the end zone.
In all likelihood, the Patriots are happy with whatever he gives them at this time of year simply because he's a full participant. And truthfully, just having him on the field is probably present enough for Brady. (Especially with his receivers already starting to wear down.) Any training-camp touchdowns would be a bonus.