Patriots

49ers' George Kittle likely will break this Rob Gronkowski record in NFC title game

49ers' George Kittle likely will break this Rob Gronkowski record in NFC title game

Former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski owns several NFL records, and one of them is likely to be broken Sunday when the San Francisco 49ers take on the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game.

49ers tight end George Kittle has become arguably the best tight end in the league, and his unique blend of great size, strength and overall football talent have drawn many comparisons to Gronkowski.

Kittle is very close to breaking one of Gronkowski's records in Sunday's matchup at Levi's Stadium. In fact, he needs just 26 receiving yards to do it. Here are the details, per NFL Research:

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Kittle finished the 2019 regular season with 85 receptions for 1,083 yards and five touchdowns. These are pretty good stats, but he was mostly ineffective as a receiver in the NFC Divisional Round versus the Minnesota Vikings. Kittle caught only three passes for 16 yards in the win over Minnesota. Kittle, like Gronk, is a tremendous run blocker, and that's really where he made his mark against the Vikings.

Gronkowski not only put up Hall of Fame-worthy stats, he also shined brightest in the playoffs. He tallied 81 receptions for 1,163 yards and 12 touchdowns in 16 career postseason games. Kittle is a tremendous player, but he cannot be compared to Gronkowski until he starts dominating when the stakes are highest.

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Ex-Patriots star Rob Gronkowski reveals where he wanted to go in 2010 NFL Draft

Ex-Patriots star Rob Gronkowski reveals where he wanted to go in 2010 NFL Draft

Rob Gronkowski envisioned beginning his NFL career in Arizona.

Gronkowski played two seasons at the University of Arizona and was one of the best tight end prospects entering the 2010 NFL Draft. His initial preference was to make the 2-hour trip from Tuscon to Glendale and play for the Arizona Cardinals. The Kurt Warner era in Arizona had just ended and the team needed a tight end. On paper, the Cardinals and Gronkowski were a perfect match.

“I loved being in the state of Arizona … I was praying that they would take me because I wanted to go there,” Gronkowski said Tuesday on Arizona radio station 98.7 FM's "Doug & Wolf" show. “I felt like they needed a tight end and they brought me in for a little visit.”

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The visit didn't go very well.

“I took a visit there and everything, I could tell they had no interest in me,” Gronkowski said. “I could tell, the people that brought me in, they were just bringing me in to bring me in.”

Concerns over Gronkowski's back played a part in him dropping to the second round, where the Patriots took a chance on him with the 42nd overall pick. Gronkowski played nine years for the Patriots and became arguably the greatest tight end in pro football history.

He also played a part in three Super Bowl-winning Patriots teams, including a Super Bowl LIII triumph over the Los Angeles Rams in February of 2019 that turned out to be his last NFL game. He retired in March of last year.

The Cardinals are still searching for an elite tight end 10 years later. The position has been an area of weakness for Arizona throughout the last decade. According to USA TODAY, Gronkowski's 80 career receiving touchdowns are 54 more than every Cardinals tight end combined (26 TDs) from 2010 through 2018. 

The Cardinals did take a tight end in the 2010 draft with the selection of Jim Dray in the seventh round. He played in 56 games (and tallied just two receiving touchdowns) for the Cardinals over a seven-year career that also included time with three other teams.

Gronkowski would've been great for the Cardinals, and he was right in their backyard.

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NFL Rumors: Could Patriots videotaping investigation punishment come soon?

NFL Rumors: Could Patriots videotaping investigation punishment come soon?

Stop us if you've heard this before: An investigation into a Boston-area sports team has dragged on longer than expected.

The NFL launched its investigation into the Patriots back in December after the Bengals caught a New England staffer videotaping their sideline from Cincinnati's press box during a Week 14 game.

The Patriots issued a statement addressing the incident and footage of their film went public, but the league still hasn't concluded its investigation more than two months later.

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A verdict could be coming soon, however, as The Boston Globe's Ben Volin reports the NFL is "getting closer to wrapping up" its investigation.

From Volin:

Last week, NFL Security completed what was believed to be the final interview with a Patriots employee. Now the security officials must write up their report, then hand it up the chain of command, where it will eventually land on the desk of commissioner Roger Goodell, who will approve of a final course of action.

There's still no precise timetable for that course of action, per Volin.

Head coach Bill Belichick has maintained that his football staff had no connection whatsoever to the illegal videotaping, but New England still could face punishment in the form of a fine and/or loss of a mid-round draft pick.

Will that punishment come before Major League Baseball concludes its never-ending investigation into the 2018 Boston Red Sox? That's anyone's guess.