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Thursday, 03 August 2017 00:43

Best Gift Rob Gronkowski Can Give Tom Brady Is Staying Healthy - And On The Field

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Tom Brady turns 40 Thursday. And Rob Gronkowski can't believe it.

The tight end can't believe that the quarterback looks younger than most of his teammates. He can't believe that he's in just amazing shape. And he can't believe he has the good fortune of catching passes from one of the greatest to ever play the game - at any position.

That's why when Gronk was asked what he plans to do for the man who has given him the platform to spike himself onto the NFL scene since 2010, the answer was simple.

"I get him touchdowns," said Gronkowski, who has a club-record 76 receiving touchdowns and one rushing score over his seven NFL seasons.

"You’ve got to catch the ball. That’s all he wants – his receivers, tight ends, running backs to catch the ball. So that’s probably what he wants."

But to do that, Gronkowski knows better than anyone that you have to be ready, willing and able to play.

With Gronkowski on the field, the Patriots have the most potent offense in the NFL. Even with the loss of Martellus Bennett to Green Bay (replaced by Dwayne Allen), Brady will have a remarkable arsenal to work with. If Gronk can return to his status as the best red zone target in the league and the best tight end in the seam route in football, Brady will be able to spread the ball in spaces on the field like never before. He'll have Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan deep. He'll have Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell as underneath and intermediate options. And there will be James White, Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead and Michael Gillislee in the flat.

The 30-year-old Brady in 2007 didn't even enjoy that diversity.

All anyone - including Brady - really wants from Gronk this year is to stay healthy. He was limited to eight games in 2016 due to his back, which required yet another surgery late in the season.

Gronk caught just 25 passes and a career low three touchdowns. That's why he's willing to try anything at this point to try and improve his odds of staying healthy, including the "Brady Diet", which includes Brady preparing some food for him to consume before and after practice.

The most prolific and decorated tight end in Patriots history has gone as far as working with Brady health and fitness guru Alex Guerrero.

"I’m just feeling good. I’m feeling good every day, in and out. It’s going well," Gronkowski said after Wednesday's fourth full pads practice of camp.

The reason Gronk - already a physical specimen among NFL gladiators - decided to work with Guerrero?

"Because I look at him and he turns 40 tomorrow and he runs around like he’s younger than me," Gronk said of Brady. "So it’s pretty obvious right there."

Yeah, hard to argue with that logic.

Is it working?

"Yes. I just feel good. I feel good," he said, before detailing how the diet is going. "It’s going good. Yes. Dinners are super healthy. But after this type of workout you fiend for that type of stuff. That’s when you want all those nutrients. That’s when you want to eat it. So he cooks them for me, I eat them."

Gronkowski has been reminded of his football mortality early and often in his seven NFL seasons, and even before. The three back surgeries, the two arm surgeries, the bum ankle that shortened his 2011 season and may have been the only thing between the Patriots and a successful Hail Mary ending to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.

The motivation to take care of his body has always been there for Gronk. Now, there's an extra level of urgency after the Patriots won Super Bowl LI without him taking a snap in the postseason. He wants to remind everyone that he is still a very vital cog in the offensive machine in Foxboro.

"It’s always important. I mean being young – I mean as you get older you start feeling it more, for sure," Gronkowski acknowledged. "I remember I was 21 at one point, when I was 22, first [and] second year in the league, I could just go home and I used to just not really do anything. But now as you get older, it just felt like it was that time in my career where I just really needed to focus on it and go to the next level or else I could’ve possibly been out of the door. So just wanted to take it to the next level and keep on going."

There has been the suggestion - by those in and out of the sport science field - that Tom Brady at 40 is physically BETTER than he was at 30 to handle the rigors of the NFL. That seems pretty unbelievable - even to a teammate that knows him as well as Gronkowski.

"No, I can’t (believe it)," Gronk admitted. "It’s pretty wild. (Wednesday) is his last day in his 30s. There’s nowhere else he wants to spend it besides the football field. But it’s just unbelievable how he’s turning 40 and just where he’s at right now is just unreal."

No wonder Gronkowski is inspired to do whatever it takes to be on the field as long as Brady is throwing passes.

"Yes, definitely, for sure," Gronk said.

Wednesday news and notes:

Bill Belichick wasn't about to indulge reporters pressing him on what took place in the aftermath of Tuesday's scuffle between Julian Edelman and Stephon Gilmore. Both players were back on the practice field Wednesday after getting into it Tuesday and getting tossed from practice early.

This was the exchange Wednesday morning at Gillette Stadium:

Q: When there’s a fight at practice, the rule is that those guys involved are asked to leave. Is there anything positive that you can take from that sort of instance in terms of the competitiveness or intensity the players are showing?

BB: Well, I don’t know what the rules are. I just try to coach the team the best I can.

Q: I was just referring to your rules.

BB: I don’t know what rule that is. I do what I think is right in all situations, so that’s what I do.

Q: What typically happens if there is a fight between players at training camp?

BB: I do what I think’s best. 

Q: What happened after the fight yesterday?

BB: I’m not going to get into that. 

Q: Will there be any consequences for those players today?

BB: Look, I’ll do whatever I do with the team. It’s between me and the team. All discipline matters are. Hopefully you can respect that.

Chris Hogan left practice Wednesday early with a right knee issue. He spent time on the sideline with an ice wrap before leaving with the team. It did not appear serious. Matthew Slater appeared to stiffen up and headed for a tent and did not return. It was not clear what the veteran's injury issue might be. Michael Gillislee also did not practice and spent time on the conditioning field.

Tom Brady threw his first interception of camp on Wednesday.

Recently-retired Rob Ninkovich returned to the practice field Wednesday, after an appearance at ESPN Tuesday in Bristol, Conn. He spent time observing and helping out the coaching staff.

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