Patriots

'Twinkle Toes' Gronkowski? In Belichick's eyes, anyway

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'Twinkle Toes' Gronkowski? In Belichick's eyes, anyway

FOXBORO -- Rob Gronkowski has plenty of nicknames. There's the obvious abbreviation of his last name. There's what Tom Brady calls him, borrowing from Marshawn Lynch: "Beast Mode."

Bill Belichick has also gotten in on the nickname game for his massive tight end, apparently. What it lacks in intimidation it makes up for with . . . sparkle?

Gronkowski was told on Wednesday afternoon that when Belichick broke down his 33-yard touchdown against the Jets, he made a point to highlight Gronkowski's high-stepping into the end zone.

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"Oh, he liked that? It didn’t seem like he liked it," Gronkowski said with a smile. "He says I've got twinkle toes, so I’ll take Twinkle Toes. I like when I have twinkle toes -- that means I’m feeling good. I’m feeling it."

Gronkowski finished the game with 6 catches for 83 yards and two scores, and if he stays healthy he's on pace for 78 catches for 1,203 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. Those numbers would put him in contention for a first-team All-Pro nod, which would earn him the max $10.75 million for 2017 that's been written into his incentive-laden contract for this season.

Even if he isn't an All-Pro, 1,200 receiving yards would also trigger the max value of the deal. Seventy catches, 1,000 receiving yards or 12 touchdowns would trigger the second tier of Gronkowski's incentives, paying him $8.75 million. Sixty catches, 800 yards or 10 touchdowns would pay him $6.75 million -- up from the minimum of $5.25 million he's  guaranteed for this season.

Numbers aside, part of what has made Gronkowski's season so impressive is that he's been an impactful run-blocker and pass-protector when asked. On Dion Lewis' first carry of the game against the Jets, Gronkowski sealed a defensive lineman and allowed Lewis to bounce outside for nine yards. On a goal-line run in the second quarter, Lewis ran right behind Gronkowski to get into the end zone. 

During training camp, as Gronkowski returned to the field after season-ending back surgery, the physical aspect of the game didn't necessarily look like one of his strong suits. He was on the ground more than reporters are used to seeing, and there were questions as to whether or not at this stage of his career he would be able to be the well-rounded tight end that has made him such a dynamic weapon in years past. 

After five games, it's clear he has his feet under him. 

"It's definitely part of the game, a big part of the game," he said. "You want to be able to block. It helps in the play-action passes big time to get open. It just helps overall. It helps with the running game to be able to block and you want a run game. You don't just want a pass game. 

"It takes time. When you get to training camp you've got to build your foundation. You’ve got to build that base and taking all of those hits in training camp and it progresses throughout the season. Just building the base throughout training camp and you just want to be the best blocker that you can be to help out the team."

A hard-nosed blocker who occasionally flashes twinkle toes? Though he may poke fun, Belichick's no doubt pleased he has himself a tight end who can do both.

"Yeah, he said I had twinkle toes," Gronkowski said. "I took it as a compliment . . . I like twinkle toes."

You can watch Belichick's breakdown of Gronkowski's celebration -- he also looked at his team's execution against a two-man Jets rush, its hustle on kickoffs, and a 58-yard net punt by Ryan Allen -- on Patriots.com.

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Kraft: Trump stance on NFL protests 'divisive and horrible'

Kraft: Trump stance on NFL protests 'divisive and horrible'

In an audio recording obtained by the New York Times of the contentious October meeting between NFL owners and players over protests during the national anthem, Patriots owner - and friend of President Trump - Robert Kraft blasted Trump.

“The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America,” the Times quotes Kraft as saying. “It’s divisive and it’s horrible.”

Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie cautioned the players not to be baited by Trump, who earlier in the fall had called NFL players sons of bitches for kneeling during the anthem before games. Lurie called the Trump presidency "disastrous." 

"We've got to be careful not to be baited by Trump or whoever else," Lurie said. 

Many of the players told the owners that ex-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who initiated the kneeling protest, was being blackballed by the owners.

"We all agree in this room that he should be on a roster," said former Patriots linebacker Chris Long, who recently retired after winning a Super Bowl with the Eagles. 

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Report: QB Lamar Jackson had private workout for McDaniels

Report: QB Lamar Jackson had private workout for McDaniels

The Patriots-picking-Lamar-Jackson rumors Thursday night in the first-round of the draft are bound to heat up in the next 24 hours after a report by Jenny Vrentas of Sports Illustrated's MMQB that the Louisville quarterback had a second workout for the Pats - this one a private session in South Florida for offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Jackson, the Heisman Trophy winner in 2016, previously made a visit to Foxboro, where he even got a laugh out of Bill Belichick. 

The Patriots, with picks No. 23 and 31 in the first round, would likely have to trade up to get Jackson, whose mobility is one of his key assets. Our Phil Perry has him going 15th to the Arizona Cardinals in his latest mock draft.

Speaking at the site of the draft in Dallas on Wednesday, Jackson, via NFL.com's Jeremy Bergman, sounded excited at the prospect of New England trading up to get him and he's sticking by his mother as his manager.

Jackson already has kind of an endorsement from Brady via Instagram earlier this month. And click here for our Mike Giardi on Jackson from our "Next Heir Up" series on possible Pats future QBs.

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