The saga revolving around Rob Gronkowski's prospective return to the Patriots after several surgeries on his arm and back cost him at least the first six games of this season took another strange turn Friday, when BODYARMOR SuperDrink -- one of the products he endorses -- released a video in which the Patriots' tight end talks about how ready he is to get back on the field, how hard he's working, and how important it was that he rehab properly.
"Obviously I went through a lot of hectic, emotional, stressful events with injuries -- but it's something you've got to deal with," he says in the video embedded above. "It's a contact sport, every single play, and I'm just looking at my future now.
"When you're hurt, you just really don't feel part of the team. You go in every day, see everyone -- and I just see the guys working every day, out at practice, and that motivates me, too, to see my teammates grinding every day and I'm not out there grinding with them."
In recent weeks, there have been reports of a disagreement between the team and Gronkowski concerning his availability. There were other reports claiming that there were differences of opinion among doctors about Gronkowski's health. Last week, Fox's broadcast team made a point of mentioning early in their show how good Gronkowski looked in practice leading up to his absence in last week's Patriots-Saints game. And there were allegedly teammates agitated by Gronkowski remaining out of games while looking good behind the scenes.
Bill Belichick doesn't typically have much patience for those types of leaks, which lead to innuendo and unnecessary distraction. The coach would just as well prefer never to talk about injuries, and he took that tact himself earlier on Friday when asked for a response to text messages sent by Gronkowski's agent saying the tight end was now medically cleared.
So Belichick can't be thrilled about the latest twist, this video -- unless it's motive is actually more calculated than it may appear to be initially. We'll know better when Gronkowski gets approached by reporters looking for a comment on his return, and how he handles that situation. (Update: Gronkowski declined to speak with reporters after practice Friday, a Patriots' official saying he'd fulfilled his media obligation for the week.)
But perhaps, knowing he'd have to talk at some point, this was just his way of making a prepared statement that addressed all the issued raised by those various rumors and reports. And rather than stand at a podium, or pull a Jacoby Ellsbury and awkwardly read from notes at his locker, he and his handlers opted instead to do it in a more polished, more controlled, more measured presentation -- one that also happened to help out one of the companies in which he is a partner.
It eliminated the chance of saying something silly, or staggering in front of the microphones, and was essentially a way to not only control the message, but to control the manner in which it was delivered, and to make sure Gronkowski came across sincere in his concerns and in his commitment to his team and his teammates.
And if that's the case, who knows, this might even have been pre-approved by the Patriots -- who ultimately should be most concerned first and foremost with getting and keeping one of their best players back on the field. Based on Gronkowski's comments on the video, it appears a distinct possibility it'll happen this Sunday in New Jersey against the Jets.
"It's not just the arm, it's the back, too. You've got to rehab both, and both is a process of weeks. It's every single day for eight weeks -- or the rest of my life I'll be doing physical therapy," Gronkowski says in the video, before the dramatic music is turned up a little louder as it rolls over clips of him tying his shoes, lifting weights, and training.
"You might think that we just show up and play on Sunday, but there's so much behind-the-scenes process that goes on in order to get back out on the field, and it's literally rehab, rehab, practice, running, conditioning, strengthening all the muscles, strengthening your core muscles. And it's not just my back muscles, my arm muscles, it's my whole body.
"I feel so much better than I have the past few weeks. Compared to last week right now at this time, I feel great. And, say, last week compared to the week before that, I feel great. That's the only thing you can ask for is progressing every single week.
"I had it taken away from me at college, I had it taken away from me at the end of last year, and now I had it taken away from me at the beginning of the year -- the game of football. It's going to be a great feeling to run back out there, through that tunnel, and get back out on the field with them."
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