FOXBORO -- The most excitable player on the practice field on Day One of Patriots training camp wasn’t some young kid getting his first taste of the massive crowds at Foxboro for practice, or established veterans like Stephon Gilmore and Brandin Cooks, or even Tom Brady, who lives for this.
The player who was bouncing from first step to last was none other than Rob Gronkowski.
“I’ve definitely had a longer vacation than a lot of guys,” said Gronkowski. “I’d probably say I was the most eager to get going, to get rolling.”
Gronkowski hasn’t played in a game since he suffered a season-ending injury back in the Week 12 win over the Jets. Back surgery followed and while the imposing tight end has been ahead of schedule the entire time, seeing is believing.
Gronk made a handful of nice grabs, including three in the end zone. All resulted in an exuberant display from the 28-year old.
"It’s football," he said. "Just when you’re feeling good out there and making plays you just want to have fun. That’s the whole game of football. Have fun out there, enjoy it and have competition. Competition is huge. That’s what gets you better. That’s what makes you better as a player. That’s what makes the team better -- competition.”
Running around in shorts and shells is a continuation of a process that saw Gronk work with the team during both OTAs and mini-camp. This weekend, another milestone, practicing in full pads, not that there’s a rush.
“I don’t mind the first two days without pads,” he said. “I’m not going to lie. You wanna get acclimated to football and to the movements and everything. You want to get your body back to it. It’s been a while since you’ve been having competition like that . . . but then after that, you’re ready to roll.”
And when that time comes, Gronk will welcome this defense -- and any other -- taking their shots.
“I always want to take hits. When we put those pads on, I’m going to definitely be ready. I am going to be ready to take hits, ready to play ball.”
He’d better be. Gronk punctuated those scores with spikes and dancing and some other nonsense that will no doubt be filed away by the defensive player. Of course, they can’t light up their own tight end, and who would want to extinguish that passion anyway?
"I don’t even notice know what I did,” he said. “It wasn’t like a real spike, it was just like tossing it to the ground. Juiced up, just trying to make plays out there.”