FOXBOROUGH — Rob Gronkowski was quick with his answer.
Do you like to pass block?
“Yeah,’’ the big tight end said with a smile Wednesday. “Why not?’’
Gronkowski has done plenty of it throughout his career, including this season. Widely considered the top all around player at this position, Gronkowski gets noted more for his pass-catching exploits than his blocking excellence and he’s OK with that.
Gronkowski is averaging 5.8 targets per game this season after averaging 7.5 last season. He had just four against the Chiefs despite playing 77 of 78 snaps. He’s also been targeted just once in the red zone this season and his lone touchdown pass came from 21 yards out in the opener.
None of those numbers are much of a concern for the nine-year veteran, who said wins are the only statistic he and his teammates care about. Frustration over lack of targets never crosses his mind.
“We’ve got many good players on the offensive side of the ball and we’re just trying to win games,’’ Gronkowski said. “I would say that there’s many players on our team [and] even if they didn’t get a pass in the game and we won, they’d be totally satisfied. We’re just trying to work together as a unit and whoever gets the ball, we’re trying to do [our] best job to help him score.’’
At 6 feet 6 inches, Gronkowski is an ideal red area weapon and he said it’s incumbent upon him to produce points when the Patriots get there.
“First off, I’ve got to get open,’’ said Gronkowski, who said he is “feeling good” despite being limited on the practice report with an ankle injury. “I’ve got to get out there and run better routes and then I’ll start seeing more targets. Whatever play is called, we’re scoring points, we’re scoring down there. Whatever I have to do to help out the team, even if the ball’s not going my way, I’ve got to . . . just keep grinding.’’
“He’s a very disruptive payer, so he turns it over on sacks, strip-sacks, fumbles, tipped balls, interceptions,’’ Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “He’s a really strong run player, he’s a good pass rusher, he’s got speed, he’s got power. He’s very aware and instinctive.’’
As glowing as Belichick’s endorsement of Mack was, the Patriots coach quickly set the record straight when he was asked if Mack “ranked up there” in the pass rushing category with the likes of former Giants great Lawrence Taylor.
“Now, wait a minute,’’ the coach said. “We’re talking about Lawrence Taylor now. Yeah, I’m not putting anybody in Lawrence Taylor’s class. So, you can put everybody down below that. With a lot of respect to a lot of good players now, but we’re talking about Lawrence Taylor.’’
Belichick coached the Hall of Fame linebacker from 1981-90 when Taylor collected 114.5 of his 132.5 career sacks.
Taylor later retweeted a video of Belichick’s words with the comment, “What he said.”
“Loved it. Man, I absolutely loved it,’’ he said on a conference call. “Loved how the organization ran, great coaching. I have nothing but phenomenal things to say about that organization as a whole.’’
Hicks said there was mutual interest in extending his stay in New England after 2015 before he ultimately chose the Bears and their two-year, $10 million offer.
“Most definitely, just on both sides,’’ he said. “I was interested in being back and they were interested in having me there. It turned out that there was an opportunity for me here in Chicago and I took that opportunity.’’
Julien Edelman popped up on the injury report with a heel ailment and was one of 10 Patriots limited at the afternoon walkthrough, the club’s first practice session of the week. Marcus Cannon, who suffered a concussion in the second half of Sunday’s win over the Chiefs, was the only player not present. Edelman was one of 10 players listed as limited, including Gronkowski (ankle); Josh Gordon (hamstring); Sony Michel (knee); Jacob Hollister (hamstring); Malcom Brown (knee); Eric Rowe (groin); Deatrich Wise (ankle/knee); John Simon (shoulder); and Geneo Grissom (ankle) . . . In addition to Mack, defensive back Marcus Cooper (hamstring) didn’t practice for the Bears. Cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring), offensive lineman Eric Kush, and receiver Allen Robinson (groin) were limited . . . Running back Rex Burkhead and linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley, both of whom are on injured reserve but could return in Week 13 vs. the Vikings, were spotted in the locker room Wednesday . . . Stephon Gilmore said he spoke with and congratulated fellow South Carolina alum Jackie Bradley Jr. after the latter’s grand slam helped the Red Sox beat the Astros on Tuesday night . . . According to ESPN, the Patriots worked out defensive end Cornellius “Tank” Carradine, defensive back A.J. Howard, and linebackers Corey Nelson and Tegray Scales Wednesday.