Rob Gronkowski said his body felt rejuvenated after taking a year off from the NFL grind.
What the 32-year-old may not have fully accounted for was working his way back into shape during the height of Florida’s summer heat and humidity. Gronkowski is preparing for his first season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after spending his first nine NFL seasons with the New England Patriots.
“He’s probably in New England shape right now, but he’s not in Florida shape,” Bucs coach Bruce Arians quipped on Monday. “The heat is kicking his (butt) pretty good.
“It’s different, man. When you train in New England and then come down here, it’s really different. We laughed about it out there today – I don’t think he’s ever sweat that much in his life. It takes a little time to get into the Florida shape, but as far as playing in a game, he’s more than ready right now.”
Rob Gronkowski leads loaded TE group
Gronkowski is the leading man in a loaded tight end unit that includes former first-round pick O.J. Howard and veteran Cameron Brate.
“We’ve already made a lot of improvements in a lot of areas as far as he’s helping us out a lot in the run game with his footwork and just different things in routes that he used over the years to help him get open,” Howard said of working with Gronkowski. “Just being on the field with him, us together has been a big mismatch.
“It’s hard to cover a lot of guys like that when we’re on the field together – it’s just hard to stop that. It’s going to open up a lot of things for everyone and I think it should be real fun.”
Gronkowski is a future Hall of Famer with 521 career catches for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns. Howard has 94 catches for 1,457 yards and 12 touchdowns through his first three seasons, while Brate enters his seventh season in Tampa Bay with 195 catches for 2,156 yards and 27 touchdowns.
O.J. Howard has a mentor
Howard was the subject of trade rumors after Gronkowski was acquired, but the Bucs opted to hold onto him. Thus far, Arians has been impressed by his growth under Gronkowski’s mentorship.
“I think the biggest thing for O.J. was just learning what we’re trying to teach,” Arians said. “That’s a very difficult position in this scheme and he’s come in and he’s got a great handle on it right now.
“I think Rob’s helped him confidence-wise – seeing how good he is and telling him how good he is. When you’ve got a guy like Gronkowski and (Tom) Brady telling you you’re good, you’re probably pretty good. I think that’s helped, but he’s playing really, really well right now.”
–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)