MELROSE, Mass. -- With New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski’s availability for the season opener Sept. 7 at Miami still up in the air, the team’s depth at the position has been a talking point entering OTAs.
Speaking at his Citi Football Clinic at Melrose High School Sunday morning, Gronkowski weighed in with his thoughts.
“We’re just working hard,” Gronkowski said. “Everyone that’s there is improving every week and doing the best they can.”
Behind Gronkowski on the depth chart is Michael Hoomanawanui (136 receiving yards, one touchdown in 10 starts last season), four-year veteran D.J. Williams and undrafted free agents Justin Jones and Asa Watson, the younger brother of former Patriots tight end Ben Watson.
With chatter leading up to this year’s draft that the Patriots could target a tight end in the early rounds, Gronkowski said he didn’t pay any attention to that possibility.
“I just worry about what I’ve got to do and what I’ve got to do right now is rehab and get better,” Gronkowski said. “I just have to focus on my job and what I’ve got to do to get back and help the team.”
Recovering from January surgery to repair a torn right ACL, Gronkowski said that he still doesn’t have a target date set for his return. Sunday marks the date that teams can sign free agents without having them count against the compensatory draft pick formula, a note made more interesting for the Patriots with notable tight end options Dustin Keller and Jermichael Finley still available.
Asked what his reaction would be if the Patriots signed either Keller or Finley, Gronkowski said those decisions are out of his hands.
“I don’t make any personnel decisions, it is what it is,” Gronkowski said. “I’m just focused on what I’ve got to do with my job. Tomorrow starts a new week and I’ve got to hit the rehab again tomorrow really hard to make myself better as a player.”
As for Sunday, Gronkowski enjoyed the chance to take his mind off rehab while hosting his clinic for 500 kids grades 1-8. With all four of his brothers, Gordy Jr., Chris, Dan and Glenn, and his father, Gordy Sr., on hand, Rob took part in activities with the kids, including participating in drills and judging the clinic’s race to determine the fastest camper. He even took some reps throwing post-routes and fades to participants, showing off an arm that he suggested could soon find him moving his way onto a different depth chart.
“[Quarterback Tom] Brady better watch out,” Gronkowski said. “He knows I’ve got an arm too.”