Patriots

Gronk says report of Patriots' infighting 'going to bond us together'

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Gronk says report of Patriots' infighting 'going to bond us together'

FOXBORO - There has been so much noise about the recent ESPN article on the Patriots and their reported dysfunction that the Divisional Round playoff game against the Titans on Saturday has been nothing more than an afterthought this week, at least in terms of media attention. 

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Of course, for an organization that prides itself on being able to not only block out distractions but thrives amid them, this may actually be fuel to their postseason fire.

“The feeling around here, the intensity is high, the preparation is high just like any other time,” said Rob Gronkowski. “It’s just like any other week. I feel like if anything it’s just going to bring us closer and it’s going to bond us together. The feel is no different than any other week going on right now. It’s good. We just had a good practice week. Everything’s feeling good and just excited for the big game, but first off, we’ve got a big week ahead of us to prepare.”

Gronk is well-versed in the Patriots approach to such matters. How many times has it happened before? And how many times have the Pats managed to put on their blinders and emerge victoriously? 

“I mean, throughout my years here I’ve seen a lot of negative, a lot of positive,” he said. “The reputation that Coach [Bill Belichick] tries to get us to have is just ignore the noise. Ignore the noise from the outside and I feel like that’s what myself, a lot of other players have been doing. You’ve just got to keep ignoring the noise and just keep our focus on what we’ve been doing all year and that’s preparing hard, studying our opponent, getting ready mentally and physically for the big game. No matter what’s going on on the outside, as a team, as an organization we’ve just got to keep grinding and keep going and keep doing our job.”

The All-Pro tight end has had to deal with his fair share of adversity over the years, including back surgery which cost him the postseason last year. So you know what that means? 

“I’m excited, definitely. I wasn’t part of it last year, but not looking in the back, just looking forward to this game, man. I’m super excited to be back out there with the team. Just super excited today out there on the field with the boys again. We had a couple of days off. It’s my first playoff game in a while, so I’m excited, man. I’ve just got to take it one day at a time right now.”

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Protoypical Patriots: What they want on the O-line - Smart, tough, athletic

Protoypical Patriots: What they want on the O-line - Smart, tough, athletic

Before the Super Bowl, Dante Scarnecchia spoke to a small group of reporters and laid out exactly what the Patriots look for in their offensive linemen.

"We covet three things when we look for offensive linemen," Scarnecchia said. "They have to be smart, they have to be tough, and they have to be athletic enough."

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While there's certainly more to it than that, those are the basics. Check those off the list, and you'll have a chance. Someone like Cole Croston -- an undrafted rookie out of Iowa -- was able to spend the entirety of the 2017 season on the active roster with the Patriots because he met New England's criteria. 

The Patriots have a clear need for depth at offensive tackle after Nate Solder signed with the Giants, but are there players who can come in to be an immediate stopgap on the edge? If so, who are they? And if not, which developmental prospects could be fits?

Here are some names to keep in mind on draft weekend. These "prototypes" have what the Patriots typically look for in terms of size and athleticism up front:

PROTOTYPES IN RANGE
MIKE McGLINCHEY, NOTRE DAME, 6-8, 309


I've been told by evaluators that when it comes to this class of tackles, McGlinchey might be the only one who is truly ready for regular work in the NFL. That doesn't mean others can't develop into starters -- and do so quickly. But it sounds like McGlinchey is already there, particularly in the running game. He has the requisite size that the Patriots look for. Though he's not one of the top athletes in the class (his 28.5-inch vertical is a little under what the Patriots often like), he seems athletic enough (his broad jump, for instance, was 105 inches, which meets New England's criteria). That he comes from a pro-style blocking scheme could also make him a quick fit. Scarnecchia attended McGlinchey's pro day.  

KOLTON MILLER, UCLA, 6-9, 305


Length. Athleticism. Experience in a varied offense. Miller seems to have just about everything the Patriots look for. There seem to be some technique issues that Scarnecchia will have to work with to get Miller ready to go, but he's physically impressive. His 40 time (4.95 seconds) is more than quick enough. Same goes for his 31.5-inch vertical and his 121-inch broad jump. The jumps are significant because they show explosiveness, which for linemen -- who have to operate with force in tight spaces and explode out of their stances in pass protection -- is important. Miller told me at the combine he was scheduled to meet with New England. 

CONNOR WILLIAMS, TEXAS, 6-5, 296 


Williams has been deemed a guard by some because his size isn't necessarily ideal to play on the outside. And if he were drafted by the Patriots to play tackle, he'd be on the smaller side. But at 6-5 he's about the same height as Matt Light, and his arms (33 inches) are just a hair shorter than Sebastian Vollmer's (33 1/4). Athletically, he hits every standard. His 40 (almost five seconds flat) and jumps (34-inch vertical, 112-inch broad jump) were all very good. Belichick has a good relationship with Texas coach Tom Herman, and Williams reportedly paid the Patriots a visit during the pre-draft process. 

BRIAN O'NEILL, PITT, 6-7, 297 


O'Neill, like Miller, is another athletic prospect who will need some time. The former tight end is a little light compared to players the Patriots have drafted in the past. (Even Tony Garcia, whose knock against him was that he was light, weighed 302 pounds at the combine last year.) But athletically there are some eye-popping traits. He ran a 4.82-second 40-yard dash and had a 7.14-second three-cone drill. His jumps were good but not out-of-this-world (28.5 vertical, 107-inch broad). 

BRADEN SMITH, AUBURN, 6-6, 315


How much does arm length matter? If the answer for the Patriots is "a heckuva lot" then Smith may not be deemed a fit. His arms measured 32 1/4 inches, which would be shortest for any tackle they've ever drafted. Otherwise? He's just about what they're looking for. Trusted player in the SEC. Tough. Good height. Good athlete. He ran a 5.22-second 40, benched 35 reps, jumped 33.5 inches and broad-jumped 113 inches. 

IMPERFECT BUT INTRIGUING
TYRELL CROSBY, OREGON, 6-5, 309
 


Crosby measured in at 6-4 and one-half inch, earning him the "6-5" listing by a hair. And his arm-length (32 1/4 inches) are short. But athletically he's solid -- 30-inch vertical, 105-inch broad jump -- and he's considered to have good toughness. Late on Day 2 could be the right time to pounce if he's available. 

JAMARCO JONES, OHIO STATE, 6-4, 299


Jones is short but his arm length (35 1/8 inches) might make up for what he lacks in height. Athletically he's not outstanding. His 40-yard dash time is slower than what the Patriots typically like (5.5 seconds), and his jumps were nothing to write home about (24-inch vertical, 102-inch broad jump). But the Ohio State connection, where the coaching staff has obvious connections to New England and the offense is relatively balanced, could help him get drafted in the middle rounds. 

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Gronk buys 'substantial stake' in Gronkowski the horse

Gronk buys 'substantial stake' in Gronkowski the horse

When will we see Gronk back in action?

Try May 5 in the Kentucky Derby. The thoroughbred named Gronkowski is a Derby hopeful and the Patriots tight end has acquired "a substantial stake" in his namesake. 

"We are very excited to have this talented racehorse running in the Derby and to have Rob Gronkowski join our team," Tom Ludt of Phoenix Thoroughbreds said in a statement. "His involvement only adds to our growing credentials worldwide and can help us introduce the best of horse racing to a whole new audience."

Gronkowski the horse is based in England with trainer Jeremy Noseda and has received a Derby invite after earning the most points in the European Road to the Kentucky Derby series.

The Gronk Nation website reports that the Patriots tight end and his entourage will be at Churchill Downs in Louisville for the race.

Here's Gronk's thoughts, via Gronk Nation, on his namesake 3-year-old colt: 

“This horse is a winner and I love a winner. When I heard about the racehorse being named after me, I started watching and got really stoked when he started winning. He’s won his last three races and is now headed to the Derby. I’m all in: Welcome to the Gronk Family, Gronkowski the Horse!"

“I really can’t think of anything cooler than having a top-class thoroughbred named after me,” Rob added. “Except maybe having him win the Derby.”

 

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