FOXBORO -- You don't have to tell Rob Gronkowski that Tom Brady's birthday is coming up. He knows it's on Friday. And even though the clock is ticking, he doesn't seem too concerned that he doesn't have a present yet for his quarterback's 41st.
"Usually, he just loves the game of football so much, usually on his birthday he just wants a good practice day," Gronkowski said. "Lot of touchdowns."
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Only Stephen Gostkowski, Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater have spent more years with Brady than Gronkowski, who has seen his QB evolve as he's aged.
Though Brady's passion for the game remains, that passion might manifest itself differently these days, Gronkowski acknowledged.
"I’ve seen the same fire in him since I’ve been here," Gronkowski said. "I would say probably back in the day he was a little more on you if you didn’t get it right, a little bit more in your face. But I mean, he’s going on 41 now, I don’t see the – I feel like he backed off on that a little bit, which is nice. He used to be mean to me and I’m glad he’s not to these young guys anymore."
Brady has been a tad quiet through six training camp practices this summer. He was visibly frustrated with himself at one point over the weekend when he missed Chris Hogan in a drill with no defense. And he shouted in celebration on Wednesday when a running play ran went to his liking.
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Otherwise, Brady hasn't been heard from much. Maybe that's because he doesn't want to get on teammates who've been around for every practice after he skipped voluntary spring work. Maybe it's because he's simply getting older and has mellowed.
On Monday night, in warmups for the in-stadium practice at Gillette, Brady spent a moment calmly explaining the nuances of a route to second-year tight end Jacob Hollister. Maybe that's who he will be all the time at this point in his career. It's hit 19th camp after all. And as long as he plays well, very few people will question the decibel levels he hits on the practice field.
"He’s hands-down just remarkable, it’s amazing," Gronkowski said. "At age 41, I mean, there’s coaches younger than us – younger than him on the roster. He looks younger than the coaches, he looks younger than everyone. The way he’s moving, how just reliable he is at all times is just unbelievable and something to look up to."