FOXBOROUGH — Rob Gronkowski hasn’t reached out to Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey this week.
“Nah, I don’t have his number,” Gronkowski said.
But the two figure to do plenty of jawing Sunday when the Patriots face the Jaguars in a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game.
Ramsey, the Jaguars’ brash All-Pro cornerback, fired the first shots this summer. Profiled in ESPN the Magazine, Ramsey said: “I don’t think Gronk’s good. Let me say — I don’t think Gronk is as great as people think he is. Anytime Gronk has been matched up with a corner, he’s had a very bad game — and that corner has had a very good game.”
Gronkowski had fun Wednesday deflecting questions about Ramsey. When asked if those comments provided extra motivation, Gronk replied: “I mean, for sure. It does and it doesn’t. It’s tricky right there — doesn’t give you the answer you’re looking for. That was a tricky question. You’re trying to get me to say something.”
Gronkowski also was asked whether he prefers to be matched up against a linebacker or a cornerback.
“I like going versus D-linemen,” he quipped.
While Gronk was composed Wednesday, don’t be surprised to see him going nose-to-nose with Ramsey and his Jaguars teammates in Jacksonville.
“You’ve got to protect yourself,” Gronkowski said. “You’ve got to protect your teammates and you’ve got to stand up for yourself when it comes to that time.
“You’re allowed to talk smack back and forth out there on the field. But I mean, I’m not trying to get no 15-yard penalty for overdoing it or anything.”
Gronkowski may not be the only Patriot to talk trash to Ramsey. Before January’s AFC Championship game, Ramsey and Tom Brady chirped at each other during warmups.
Brady hopes the Patriots bring some competitive fire and trash talk Sunday.
“I think it raises everybody’s game, as long as it doesn’t get to the point where you do something stupid,” he said. “I think emotion in football is critical, and I think you have to have energy and emotion. It’s a game of poise, certainly, but it’s also a game of just cutting it loose.”
Ramsey seemingly trashed half of the NFL this summer in separate profiles for ESPN and GQ magazines. He ripped Gronkowski for having only one catch in the AFC Championship (though he conveniently left out that Gronk left the game with a concussion), and he ripped Danny Amendola and the Patriots receivers in general.
“He just got a brand-new contract and he is terrible,” Ramsey said of Amendola in GQ. “People think he’s so great. No, he’s not. Tom made him look good. Tom could take me as a receiver and I’d be a first-team All-Pro.”
Ramsey spared Brady, however. When asked by GQ which quarterbacks “suck,” Ramsey replied, “Brady doesn’t.”
“I never want to suck,” Brady said Wednesday. “So I don’t want to be in that category.”
Ramsey is in only his third season, but he has backed up his smack talk with a high level of performance. The fifth overall pick in 2016, Ramsey was a first-team All-Pro last year while securing four interceptions and helping the Jaguars lead the league in pass defense at 170 yards per game.
A physical cornerback at 6 feet 1 inch, 210 pounds, Ramsey is often matched up against the No. 1 receiver, and last week did a great job of locking down the Giants’ Odell Beckham in the Jaguars’ 20-15 win.
The Patriots barely went his way last January, as Ramsey finished with just two tackles and no passes defended.
“He’s very talented, big, fast, very rare talents, rare abilities,” Brady said. “They match him up with the top receiver from time to time, and he holds his own versus everybody. So he’s a great young player.”
But Bill Belichick, often effusive in his praise of the opponent, was noticeably understated Wednesday when asked about Ramsey.
“Yeah, he’s done a good job. He’s on a good defense,” Belichick said. “They have a lot of good players and he’s one of them. They’ve got a lot of them.”
Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said he talked with Ramsey about his comments, but declined to reveal anything about the conversation. Marrone said he isn’t worried about Ramsey giving the Patriots some extra motivation.
“We’re all men,” he said. “We’ve got to stand by what we say, and you’ve got to speak for yourself.”
Marrone did his best to downplay the significance of Sunday’s rematch.
“This is our second game in the first quarter for us,” he said. “It’s a different team, different year.”
But Brady expects a hypercharged environment. Jaguars fans will be loud and rabid, hoping for revenge. They are still upset that Myles Jack was ruled down by contact after his fumble recovery, a call that potentially took points off the board and aided the Patriots’ comeback.
“It’s going to be an emotional environment,” Brady said. “4:30 game, everyone’s going to be watching. Should be a really great game for us to go out and see what we’re made of.”
Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell said he and his teammates support Ramsey.
“Jalen, he’s a very outspoken guy who loves to talk trash. That’s part of his game,” Campbell said. “I tell him all the time, ‘We’re going to be there for you.’
“I have nothing but confidence in Jalen. He’s a very smart guy. I won’t ever try to contain somebody and not let them be themselves.”
Gronkowski and the Patriots just have to be careful not to be baited into dumb penalties.
“I’ve had players on my team before where they just get in people’s heads and they react and then they get the 15-yard penalty,” Gronkowski said. “Just got to keep your head straight, keep your cool, and just play ball.”