FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Reporters will be present for the first on-field look at the 2018 New England Patriots on Tuesday, and if it is similar to what unfolded Monday, tight end Rob Gronkowski won’t be there.
Gronkowski’s absence from the voluntary program highlights how he has taken a different offseason approach in 2018 from the first seven years of his career. In doing so, he’s giving up the chance to earn a $250,000 bonus for attending 90 percent of the workouts, although he could potentially recoup the money if the sides agree to a sweetened contract, as they did last offseason.
What is the significance of Gronkowski's altering course?
Contract is a factor. Gronkowski had his contract sweetened on May 24 of last year, and NFL rules don’t allow a pact to be increased twice in a one-year span. Gronkowski is scheduled to earn a base salary of $8 million in the 2018 season, and the sides could come together to finalize a similar sweetened deal on May 24 or later. That has long been Gronkowski’s hope, and there have been discussions between the sides regarding the possibility. If that happens, Gronkowski’s arrival for voluntary workouts might come with it, as is often the case with players looking for a financial boost.
Taking control of his workouts. Gronkowski’s body has taken a beating in his NFL career, with several significant injuries. As a reminder, last year at this time, many were wondering how he would respond after his third back surgery. When Gronkowski announced last month that he would be returning to the Patriots in 2018, he said on “Uninterrupted” that a big part of his approach was to “see where your body is at” after a long run to the Super Bowl. “You feel it, playing the game,” he pointed out before explaining that the months following the Super Bowl helped him explore different types of treatments while also working out. Gronkowski added, “It’s the best I’ve ever felt right now.” He noted that he feels “super, super pliable,” which he called a “difference-maker.” So a significant part of his offseason approach has been his wanting to dictate his workout approach.
Two-time captain not in a leadership position. Similar to Tom Brady, the 15-time captain who also has stayed away from workouts, Gronkowski’s impact on teammates as a two-time captain is limited when he isn’t at the facility on a regular basis.
All about the long haul. Gronkowski’s injury history has sparked the thought among some New England fans in recent years that perhaps the Patriots should limit him early in the season so he’s at his best down the home stretch. It’s all about the long haul, and ultimately, that’s the overriding significance of Gronkowski’s current approach: If it means he’ll be at peak levels when it matters most, it could be a win-win for all involved.