Before trip to Buffalo, Gronkowski remembers flying through tables


Before trip to Buffalo, Gronkowski remembers flying through tables

FOXBORO -- Wings and smashing tables. That's what Buffalo does. Among other things. And Rob Gronkowski embraces both with open arms. 

The Patriots tight end is always happy to make his way back to Western New York to play the Bills near where he grew up in Amherst, New York. He averages about six catches for 97 yards and a touchdown every time he sets foot inside Ralph Wilson Stadium.

And he understands exactly what happens outside the stadium before every game.

"Not at a tailgate," Gronkowski said when asked if he'd ever busted a table. "But I've been through tables before. For sure. Family get-togethers. I've definitely been growing up [going] through tables."


"Bills Mafia" makes it a difficult place to play, Patriots players have insisted this week. Their record in Orchard Park under Belichick (15-2 since 2000) would suggest otherwise. But Gronkowski said the mayhem that occurs at the tailgates carries over into the stadium and makes communication difficult.

"I love the atmosphere," Gronkowski said. "It's a football atmosphere no doubt. It's loud. Third down you can barely be able to hear Tom [Brady] if he's not in a silent cadence, but it's just a good atmosphere. It's a good football atmosphere.

"They are wild for sure. I grew up there. That could explain myself a little bit in my early 20s, if that makes sense. I think it does. They're wild man, I love it though. I love that wildness. That's where I grew up in . . . They're super loud, super proud of their team."

Gronkowski said there was even a point in time when they cheered for him -- well before his Patriots career.

"I did Punt, Pass and Kick once," said Gronkowski. "That was my best memory. They were actually playing New England that game . . . I made it to the final round of the region and we threw the football at halftime on the field at Ralph Wilson Stadium. I didn't win that round, but I made it to that final. I threw it pretty far as a kid, and I got some roars from the crowd so I knew they liked me at one point."

They won't be supporting him en masse this weekend, but he said he'll still be eating their wings after the game. Anchor Bar or Duff's. Doesn't matter, he said. Just give him some blue cheese.

"To tell you the truth, everyone always asks, 'Where do you go for wings? What do you do for wings. What's the spot?' That's like the touristy spots, Duff's and Anchor Bar," Gronkowski said. "I've been to Anchor Bar before. I swore I've never been to Duff's before but I hear about it every day. I drive by it every day. I just never been there. I don't know why, but I definitely gotta try it out one time or many times in the future."

"But you can go anywhere for wings there. I usually go to Amherst Ale House. That's right down the street where I grew up. You can go anywhere, but what's key is having that blue cheese. Buffalo blue cheese. Rudy's Blue Vheese. You gotta have that or else you don't have wings."


AFC East is starting to prepare for post-Brady life

AFC East is starting to prepare for post-Brady life

The Patriots' "direction" never really changes. They're always "going for it" because they're always one of the best teams in the league. 

The rest of the AFC East is usually in flux. The other teams range from hoping for 8-8 to trying to bottom out in hopes of a high draft pick. Yet right now, it seems the stars are aligning and that the Jets, Bills and Dolphins all have the mindset: Change things now and be ready to pounce once Brady is gone. 

The Jets traded up to No. 3 on Saturday, assuring themselves a chance at one of this draft's top quarterbacks. The Bills, with picks Nos. 12 and 22, are expected by pundits to make a similar move up. The Dolphins, fresh off cutting bait with Ndamukong Suh in an attempt at a culture change, have the 11th pick and could use it on a quarterback to either push or replace Ryan Tannehill. 

None of the three teams are close to pushing the Patriots as long as Brady's around, even with the Bills coming off a season in which they reached the playoffs. Yet there's a two-or-three-year plan on which all three teams could have designs: Get the quarterback now, build around him and be in a good situation by the time Brady is done. 

We've seen these teams try to rebuild before during the Brady Era, with only limited success. Mark Sanchez worked out better in New York than anyone could have initially expected, but that success lasted way shorter than any believers could have hoped. Now, it seems they try again. 

Over in Buffalo, the end of the Tyrod Taylor era hardly means the beginning of the Nathan Peterman era. Those two first-rounders should easily be able to get the Bills into the top five, and they've also got two second-rounders and two third-rounders. Hell, they have the pieces to get to No. 1 if Cleveland is bold enough to pass on their choice of Darnold/Rosen/Allen/Mayfield. 

The Dolphins are in the more interesting spot. Tannehill missed all of last season and he's 29. If you're six years into your career and your team still isn't totally sure if you can be one of the better QBs in the league, you probably aren't one of the better QBs in the league. At the very least, Lamar Jackson should be there at No. 11. They could also trade up. 

At the start of last season, the Patriots had far and away the two best QBs in the AFC East. Now, it stands to reason that at least two of their divisional opponents (the Jets and Bills) will come away with what they hope are franchise quarterbacks. And if any of these guys hit, the Pats will have gone from the best QB situation in the NFL to seeing some actual competition waiting for them by the time their own quarterback is done. 

Of course, all three of these teams usually suck at everything, so it shouldn't be a big deal. 


Second ex-Pats OT to make free-agent visit to Cowboys

Second ex-Pats OT to make free-agent visit to Cowboys

The Patriots, who lost left tackle Nate Solder to the Giants last week, have a couple of his possible replacements, Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle, reportedly making free-agent visits to the Dallas Cowboys.

The Fleming visit was reported Sunday. On Monday, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported that Waddle will be joining his former Patriots teammate in Dallas.

Replacing Solder is obviously a key part of the Patriots offseason and retaining Waddle or Fleming could figure into those plans. Waddle, who turns 27 in July, was signed from the Detroit Lions in 2016 and appeared in 12 games last year, starting four. Fleming, a fourth-round Pats pick from Stamford in 2014, turns 26 in September and also played in 12 games last season, starting six.