HOUSTON – If there was ever a player born to handle the big demands of Super Bowl week it’s Rob Gronkowski.
The enormous tight end has an enormous personality — one that fits the enormity of America’s biggest sporting event and the crazy week that precedes it.
Gronkowski won’t be a part of the game plan for Super Bowl LI but he’ll be in and out of town during the week.
“He’s all over the place,’’ Glenn Gronkowski said Monday night on the floor of Minute Maid Park. “But he’s good. Everything’s going as planned, so he’s good.’’
The younger Gronkowski, who politely rebuffed inquiries on a regular basis since first joining New England’s practice squad Oct. 1, finally relented on media night.
Since that time, Glenn Gronkowski, who has been released from the practice squad three times before securing his latest spot Dec. 2, has become a key member of the scout team, helping the defense prepare for upcoming opponents.
Originally signed by Buffalo as an undrafted rookie free agent, Gronkowski made the initial 53-man roster for his hometown Bills before being released after Week 1. That’s when he got the first of four calls to join his big brother and the Patriots.
“It’s been an amazing season,’’ said Gronkowski, who neither looks nor sounds like Rob. “Obviously this is a great organization from the very top to the bottom, so it’s awesome to be here. There’s a winning mentality here and there’s a great atmosphere in the locker room. So it’s been a fun year, for sure.’’
Gronkowski has earned a black jersey several times this season as a Patriots practice player of the week. He takes a lot of pride in that.
“Just listen to your coaches, pay attention to what they’re telling you to do,’’ said the 6-foot-3-inch, 234-pound fullback. “Obviously you’re being evaluated every single week and you want to perform every single week. It’s just going out there and doing everything possible to help the team win.’’
He said there is a solid camaraderie among the practice squaders.
“You know, we’ve got our own little corner in the locker room,’’ he said. “We’re definitely a little closer than with other guys, I’d say, but really, the whole group — everyone on this team — is really close. It’s a great team to be a part of for sure.’’
Friend on the line
Starting tackles Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon have provided stability and consistency for the Patriots offensive line this season.
The six-year veterans have been exceptional in both pass protection and run blocking as they have guided the young interior players through the season.
Solder and Cannon have a special relationship and bond but Tuesday Solder surprisingly revealed that wasn’t always the case.
“We were both up to be drafted the same year and I think there was a little bit of animosity between us and when we ended up on the same team, it quickly became heavy animosity throughout the season,’’ said Solder, who has drafted in the first round in 2011 and Cannon was taken in the fifth. “But over the year, that next offseason, we were the two that were hanging out with each other every day. So we’ve become very close friends. I think we both appreciate and respect each other’s abilities and talents. Our families know each other, they spend time together, so it’s really been a blessing.”
Solder said there was a lot of trash-talking between the two in the early days — quite shocking given that both players are among the quietest in the locker room.
“There was plenty of talking done but it was almost like your brother, you know what I mean?’’ said Solder. “You almost want to punch him because you can’t stand him sometimes.”
Solder said their relationship grew even stronger after Solder’s son, Hudson, was diagnosed with kidney tumors. Cannon had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in his rookie season.
“Marcus was one of the first people and one of the most meaningful people that came and talked to us and he said, ‘You know, I understand the nightmare you’re going through but just know that the nightmare does end,’ and he’s seen both sides of that,’’ said Solder. “That was a huge impact on our lives and we had a huge connection on the field where he says something, ‘Nate, play with all your heart with Christ with you,’ whatever it is, it really, really means a lot to me. I’m so thankful to have him in my life.”
Best quote of the day came from Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who was asked how he keeps motivated after 42 years in coaching. “I don’t really see it as work,’’ he said. “It actually beats working. You get to do what you love to do while dealing with a lot of great people.’’ . . .
Oddest quote of the day came courtesy of Julian Edelman, when asked about fellow receiver and Houston native Danny Amendola: “He’s like a little cowboy — he rides to his own note and that note is always correct . . . if that makes sense.’’ Hmmm. It doesn’t . . . By the way, Edelman’s “playoff” beard is at four months and growing. He’s in “Duck Dynasty” territory but nowhere near Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks . . . Kudos to Logan Ryan for wearing his “Great Hambino” T-shirt during his meeting with the media. If you’re unclear, watch “The Sandlot.” . . . Belichick is donating his 24-foot power boat, “V Rings” to Sail Newport, a community sailing center in the Rhode Island city. Belichick bought a larger boat, “VI Rings” after the Patriots’ Super Bowl win over the Seahawks two seasons ago.