Julian Edelman explains what Patriots will miss with Rob Gronkowski retired

Julian Edelman explains what Patriots will miss with Rob Gronkowski retired

The New England Patriots are going to miss recently retired Rob Gronkowski's impact on the field as one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history, but what he did for the team off the field also was very important.

Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman explained Tuesday during an interview on WFAN's "Boomer & Gio" what the Patriots will miss this season without their historically dominant tight end.

“He’s definitely going to be missed," Edelman said. "Not just his athletic ability and what he does on the field, but how he is in the locker room. I’ve played nine or 10 years with the guy, and to see him every day and how he was as a professional — he never really had a bad day.

"When you play a long time with someone, you know them in and out. He’s such a good human being. Great dude to be around, like a big old teddy bear. Those are the things you’re going to miss the most. You go into Week 13, it’s been a grind, you’re banged up. We just had a long flight. We have a short week and you go into the office, you know, and sometimes it’s not easy to have a great attitude. You look at Gronk and Gronk’s over there in his locker, naked, smiling like, ‘Hey, what’s up, dude?’ That’s just Gronk, and those are the things you’re going to miss and obviously you’re going to miss his attributes.” 

Replacing what Gronkowski gave the Patriots on the field should be among the toughest challenges facing the team this season.

Matt LaCosse and veteran Benjamin Watson are the two-best options to start at tight end for the Patriots in 2019. Watson is suspended for the first four games, and LaCosse has 20 games of NFL experience, so New England isn't in a great spot at the position with training camp one month away.

The Patriots, as a result, will need multiple players to step up and help fill the on-field production Gronkowski would have provided, and two of the best candidates for the job are Edelman and rookie wide receiver N'Keal Harry.

Edelman had a very good regular season in 2018 after missing the first four games due to suspension, and then he played even better in the playoffs, culminating with a Super Bowl LIII MVP performance. He's also Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's most trusted target on third down. Harry is a big, strong target that could be a real threat in the redzone -- a role Gronkowski filled so well for nine years.

The Patriots often do a great job replacing important players who leave in free agency or retirement, but this might be their greatest challenge yet. One player isn't going to replace Gronkowski -- it has to be a group effort on the Pats' offense.

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Why Patriots center David Andrews is rooting for the Titans in the AFC Championship

Why Patriots center David Andrews is rooting for the Titans in the AFC Championship

Fans of the New England Patriots may be conflicted about whether to root for the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship Game. They are coached by former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel, but they also knocked the Patriots out in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

But regardless of how fans feel, there is one member of the Patriots who will be pulling for the Titans on Sunday. And that's center David Andrews.

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Andrews, who spent all of the 2019 season on IR with blood clots in his lungs, is rooting for one of his college teammates and closest friends, Titans center Ben Jones.

"Watching him have success is really special," Andrews said of Jones to ESPN's Mike Reiss. "I'm pulling for him all the way."

Andrews spoke about how close that he and Jones became during his recruiting process. And Andrews described Jones as a mentor to him.

"When I was in high school, I remember a lot of people said, 'You're too small to play at Georgia.' But then came Ben, and he wasn't much bigger than me, and I really looked up to him," said Andrews, per Reiss.

"When I was getting recruited, he was always great. I would go see him and he'd let me hang out with him. He'd give me leftover Georgia gear that I could wear around my high school and think I was pretty cool. Then once I got to Georgia, he really took me under his wing. Ben was always a sounding board for me -- people called us father and son because we acted a lot alike."

Jones clearly did a good job helping Andrews to develop. Despite his lacking size, Andrews has been one of the NFL's most consistent centers when healthy. And though Ted Karras filled in well in place of Andrews this past season, the team still missed their solid interior blocker.

It's easy to see why Andrews is rooting for his friend and perhaps Jones and the Titans will pull off a third consecutive upset. We'll soon find out who will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl as Jones' Titans and the Kansas City Chiefs will square off for the conference title on Sunday afternoon at 3:05 p.m.

Revisiting the Jimmy Garoppolo trade and the pros and cons of rooting for him in the NFC Championship

Revisiting the Jimmy Garoppolo trade and the pros and cons of rooting for him in the NFC Championship

Championship Sunday has been the Patriots personal playground since 2011. Until now, they’d been an automatic in the NFL’s Final Four for eight seasons running. That’s 56 dog years or two presidential cycles.

If you walked non-stop for eight years at a clip of 3.5 mph, you would walk 245,248 miles. The moon is 238,000 miles away. So you could have walked to the moon then walked/floated around up there for another 7,000 miles in the same time it took for somebody to dislodge the Patriots.

The Patriots went to their first AFC Championship Game under the BB-TB Regime back in January 2002. And then they went to 12 more over the ensuing 18 years. The only times they haven’t played this weekend? 2002. 2005. 2008. 2009. 2010.

As Bill Belichick pointed out a couple weeks ago, it hasn’t been “all that thin around here".

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Maybe you’re feeling a little empty? A little left out? You want to consume the games but you didn’t wake up this morning with the same mix of anticipation, anxiety and agitation.

The cellular-level hate you harvest all week for whoever the Patriots happen to be playing on Sunday? The revulsion you feel for every coach, player, executive and fan of whichever sorry-ass, corny, whiny, goofy franchise the Patriots are about to decapitate?

The satisfaction you’ll take tonight when you can swan dive onto social media and dance under the head the Patriots left on a stake as a warning to everyone who pledged less than 100 percent belief?

It’s absent. And you miss it.

Look, it’s unfamiliar to me too. I’ve followed the team since 1976. I’ve covered it since 1997. This week has been an interesting re-introduction to preparing for high-stakes NFL games in which the results have no impact on me, my neighbors or the people I cover for a living. Who wins, who loses? Who cares?

But we know that’s not how it works. You like football, the need to “root” is an instinct. Sometimes it’s active. Sometimes it seeps in as the game kicks off. Sometimes your head tells you your preference but as the game unfolds, your heart tells you different. Sometimes, it’s all based on who you bet on.

All of which brings us to the confusing case of James Richard Garoppolo. You’re inclined to hope he does well today. He has all that New England DNA in his system. You got to know him. Dreamy eyes, a smile that would melt the ice caps, one of four boys, his parents first-generation Italian-Americans, his father a union electrician for 40 years in Chicago, overlooked coming out of high school, underrated going into the draft, plucked by the Patriots who fed, nurtured, loved and taught him then reluctantly pushed him from the nest.

Patriots are out? Niners are in? You root for Jimmy G.

BUT! But … But you know what his success today means. Exhuming early November 2017. Revisiting the debate of whether the Patriots made a “mistake” in trading Jimmy G. and keeping the greatest quarterback in NFL history who – after Garoppolo was dealt – took the Patriots to Super Bowl 52 and 53.

And you don’t want to hear it. Because you know that, in the 2017 season, the Patriots wouldn’t have beaten the Jaguars in the AFC Championship without Brady at quarterback or been competitive in the Super Bowl against Philly without Brady putting the offense on his back and throwing for 505.

And you know Brady’s microchip mind is why the 2018 Patriots were able to survive the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game to even get to the Super Bowl. And you suspect that, if Garoppolo were the Patriots quarterback in 2019, he would have been on IR sometime in November, such was the punishment Brady took.

You know the Patriots had no recourse with Garoppolo. They couldn’t trade Brady in the midst of an MVP season in 2017. They couldn’t even come up with an offer to present to Garoppolo’s agent, Don Yee, that would keep Jimmy in Foxboro beyond the expiration of his contract in early 2018.

Garoppolo as an absurdly expensive backup, still just hanging out waiting for his career to begin? There was no way he was doing that. Yee, who represents Brady, knew the landscape. Brady wasn’t retiring. Brady was too good to trade, too important to consider trading. Franchising Garoppolo would have meant he’d make more to watch Brady play than Brady actually made while playing.  

My understanding is that there was no “hand-forcing” by Robert Kraft when it came to trading Garoppolo. Just irritated resignation by Bill Belichick that he’d waited as long as he could for a solution to reveal itself and that he was out of time.

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And when Belichick’s succession plan was blown up, he didn’t have it in him to auction off his prince so he sent him to a different kingdom entirely where he’d be well cared for.

He has been. He’s got a terrific coach. He’s got a shutdown defense. He’s got one of the best tight ends in the NFL at his disposal, a far, far cry from what he would have been dealing with at that position this season if he stayed a Patriot. 

I still don’t believe trading Garoppolo to San Fran for a second-round pick without shopping him was, “best for the football team…” Nearly two decades of hearing “value, value, value” and being under the impression collecting draft picks was a smart practice makes it hard for me to back off of that.

If you experience any “seller’s remorse” as a Patriots fan regarding Garoppolo, that’s where it should begin and end. The return on investment.

That’s the only mistake the Patriots made when it comes to Garoppolo. He shouldn’t be here. So you have a choice today and your heart will probably make it for you as the Niners play Green Bay.

Root for Jimmy even if it means listening to half-assed, low-information opinions about what the Patriots should have done? Root for Aaron Rodgers.

Go Jim!