Patriots

Gronk says report of Patriots' infighting 'going to bond us together'

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Gronk says report of Patriots' infighting 'going to bond us together'

FOXBORO - There has been so much noise about the recent ESPN article on the Patriots and their reported dysfunction that the Divisional Round playoff game against the Titans on Saturday has been nothing more than an afterthought this week, at least in terms of media attention. 

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Of course, for an organization that prides itself on being able to not only block out distractions but thrives amid them, this may actually be fuel to their postseason fire.

“The feeling around here, the intensity is high, the preparation is high just like any other time,” said Rob Gronkowski. “It’s just like any other week. I feel like if anything it’s just going to bring us closer and it’s going to bond us together. The feel is no different than any other week going on right now. It’s good. We just had a good practice week. Everything’s feeling good and just excited for the big game, but first off, we’ve got a big week ahead of us to prepare.”

Gronk is well-versed in the Patriots approach to such matters. How many times has it happened before? And how many times have the Pats managed to put on their blinders and emerge victoriously? 

“I mean, throughout my years here I’ve seen a lot of negative, a lot of positive,” he said. “The reputation that Coach [Bill Belichick] tries to get us to have is just ignore the noise. Ignore the noise from the outside and I feel like that’s what myself, a lot of other players have been doing. You’ve just got to keep ignoring the noise and just keep our focus on what we’ve been doing all year and that’s preparing hard, studying our opponent, getting ready mentally and physically for the big game. No matter what’s going on on the outside, as a team, as an organization we’ve just got to keep grinding and keep going and keep doing our job.”

The All-Pro tight end has had to deal with his fair share of adversity over the years, including back surgery which cost him the postseason last year. So you know what that means? 

“I’m excited, definitely. I wasn’t part of it last year, but not looking in the back, just looking forward to this game, man. I’m super excited to be back out there with the team. Just super excited today out there on the field with the boys again. We had a couple of days off. It’s my first playoff game in a while, so I’m excited, man. I’ve just got to take it one day at a time right now.”

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Scary story: Will left tackle situation put Brady in peril?

Scary story: Will left tackle situation put Brady in peril?

First in our series looking ahead to the opening of Patriots training camp July 26.

It's time for the linemen to get to work. Sure, the Patriots had 10 voluntary practices in the spring and three more mandatory mini-camp sessions. But it's not until training camp arrives that the pads come on and the linemen actually get to hit someone.

The left side of the line will be of particular interest once camp gets going because it will be the first time in almost two decades that the Patriots will go into camp with someone other than Matt Light or Nate Solder as their top tackle on Tom Brady's blind side. 

Will it be Trent Brown, the behemoth blocker the Patriots acquired from San Francisco with a third-round pick on draft weekend? He saw the majority of the reps at on the left side with the first group of linemen at OTAs. 

Will it be Isaiah Wynn, the first-round pick out of Georgia who looks like a guard but has the athleticism to man the edge? He worked at left guard during the spring because Joe Thuney was dealing with an injury. 

Whoever it is, Dante Scarnecchia will have his work cut out for him. It's only the health of the almost-41-year-old-quarterback, and hence the season, that's at stake. 

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Amendola: Pats' turmoil overblown, but Butler benching remains a mystery

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Amendola: Pats' turmoil overblown, but Butler benching remains a mystery

First things first. All that talk about turmoil in Foxboro?

Overblown.

"There's not really much truth to [the rumors that there was a ton of turmoil inside the walls], to tell you the truth," said ex-Patriots and current Miami wide receiver Danny Amendola. "There is always going to be some friction between a coach and a player in a business."

Second things second. The talk that there's been no explanation as to why Malcolm Butler was benched in the Super Bowl, and that the players -- or at least this player -- remain baffled by it?

Not overblown.

"I don't know the answer to [why that happened] to this day . . . " said Amendola. "[For] whatever reason, [Bill Belichick] felt, you know, he's the coach. I can't make that decision. I can only do my job and focus on my job.

"But in hindsight, it's like, 'Really, what agenda are we on?' It's something that I will probably never really understand."

Amendola said all this, and much more, on Barstool Sports' Comeback SZN Podcast with Kayce Smith, formerly of NBC Sports Boston. Amendola -- who played five years in New England before signing as a free agent with the Dolphins this past offseason -- gave a fascinating glimpse behind the Patriots' iron curtain.

Like when he signed with the Pats on March 13, 2013:

The realization he was headed to New England "set in when Bill called . . . and said, 'Get your ass to Foxboro and ink this up . . . we're not having a press conference, we don't give a [crap] about that.' Then I realized [New England] was all work, no glitz. No glamour. It's just about playing good football, the Patriot Way."

And what it was like with the Pats:

"I got to understand what it was like to put the work in and really grind it out . . . and learn how to win. When I was in St. Louis" -- Amendola played for the Rams from 2009-12, when the team went 17-46-1 and was below .500 every year -- "I learned that wins are hard to come by in the NFL . . . but sometimes we'd win in New England and [Belichick] wasn't happy. Tom [Brady] wasn't happy. Or we knew we could play better here or play better there. I learned how to win and how to play and what it meant to play good football."

Did he enjoy it?

"I have mixed feelings about business is done," he admitted.

However . . . 

"I got to play for the greatest coach of time, [with] the greatest quarterback of all time and [for] one of the greatest owners of all time (in Robert Kraft). I got to understand what it was like to put the work in and really grind it out . . . and learn how to win."

Some of the other things he had to say . . 

On the difference between Belichick and his new coach, Adam Gase: "Adam Gase is one of the guys. He's our leader. He's our head coach, but he's also our boy. It's cool. It's refreshing to have that kind of relationship with a coach, which is something that I haven't had in a long time. You want to fight hard [for a coach like that]. Back in New England, it was almost like you've got a principal and a principal's office and [stuff] like that. You know, in a good way. And in a bad way, too."

On how playing with Tom Brady impacted his career: "Tom is not only a great football player, but he makes every one on his team better around him. He's created a lifestyle for himself and diet and the way he approaches the game on and off the field around the clock. . . . he's preparing his body. He's really instilled that in me. I've watched him do it for five years. That's inadvertently changed that way I approach the game."

More on the Patriots' reported turmoil: "Personally, I can't speak for Tom or Bill. But I know that regardless of business -- and I have mixed feelings of how business is done [in New England] -- I know for a fact that Coach Belichick is one of the best coaches of all time. He has all of his players' respect. I know Tom would say that same thing. I know [Rob Gronkowski] would say the same thing, regardless of how they feel about their contracts or certain situation or whatever may be going down." 

On his favorite off-the-field memoires as a Patriot: "[Going] to the [Kentucky] Derby every year after we won the Super Bowl with Tom was fun . . . we'd gas up the jet and we'd get down there and four or five Louisville cops would pick us up. We could literally do whatever we wanted with cops by our side . . . of course, Gronk and [Julian Edelman] being there (spices things) up a bit. And when you're with Brady, every head in the building turns. He changes the energy in any room. It's fun. It's adult fun.

"I went to the Derby twice and I don't think I saw a horse one time. [Wes] Welker, one year, brought in a boombox.. We created our own club vibe in there. Wes brought like $500,000 in fake 20s and 100s stacked it up on the table and everybody thought it was real money . . . Another year, we had a karaoke machine. And this is like in the most distinguished area of the Derby. People are suited and booted . . . and we have a karaoke machine. Travis Tritt was there . . . and he sang 'Sweet Home Alabama'. It was awesome. It was electric."

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