It’s been a challenging season, but Rob Gronkowski says he’s ‘all in’
FOXBOROUGH — Rob Gronkowski is “all in.”
The tight end deflected questions about his future Thursday, saying retirement is not on his mind as he and his Patriots teammates prepare to face the Jets on Sunday.
“I haven’t been thinking about [retirement] at all,’’ Gronkowski said.
It’s been a challenging season for the perennial All-Pro, who has battled chronic ankle and back issues most of the season. Gronkowski’s statistical production has plummeted. He has 45 catches for 658 yards and three touchdowns — far below his All-Pro season of 2017, when he had 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight TDs.
Gronkowski said none of those numbers matter and that his entire focus is on the Jets as New England tries to secure a playoff bye.
“I love the grind. I’m all in. I’ve been all in all season, no matter if it’s been up or it’s been down,’’ he said. “And I’m going to tell you this right now: I’m going to be all in for the rest of the year, no matter when it is. That’s just my main focus no matter how it goes.’’
Gronkowski, who missed three games in the middle of the season, went without a catch in last week’s win against Buffalo as the Patriots leaned heavily on their run game. The tight end reiterated he’s fine with that.
“I know how this game works,’’ he said. “I’ve been here for a while — it’s a team game. If we run the ball 50 times, we run the ball 50 times. We’ve got to get that win. If we pass the ball 50 times, then we pass the ball 50 times. It’s all about the win.’’
Gronkowski said that attitude is shared by everyone in the building and it’s a key reason the team has been so successful.
“It’s all about doing what you need to do to help the team — if it’s blocking, if it’s catching 10 balls that game, if it’s catching one ball that game, if it’s blocking the whole game,’’ he said. “No matter what it is, I’m going to go full speed and whatever Coach [Bill Belichick] is asking me to do, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability. And I feel like that’s how it is with everybody out here, which is great.’’
After a loss in Detroit in Week 3, Gronkowski acknowledged he had nearly been traded to the Lions in the offseason. He said he nixed the trade by threatening to retire because he was only comfortable playing with Tom Brady as his quarterback.
Brady went on record this week as saying he plans on playing in 2019 and beyond. Gronkowski said the two haven’t discussed a joint plan going forward.
“We haven’t thought about that. I haven’t thought about that,’’ he said. “We’ve got this big game Sunday still, and the playoffs after. That’s the last thing on my mind right now.’’
Gronkowski insisted he’s still having fun playing football and that “being with the guys” is still the most enjoyable part of the game for him.
“I would say that’s a lot of player’s benefits is just having a locker room, being around the guys, having good times, being out in practice, cracking some jokes, making some plays,’’ he said. “Just having that team bond, being with everyone is always something special.’’
Gronkowski acknowledged that he’s had some down periods this season but declined to get into specifics.
“I don’t know. I probably have before, but it’s over,’’ he said, before flashing one of his patented smiles. “I’m back on the roller coaster, baby. I’m going. I’m here for the ride.’’
Devin McCourty, who came into the league with Gronkowski in 2010, said Gronkowski’s infectious personality has always been there, but he’s also seen him grow during his career.
“I think he has this persona of like this party animal that’s always out partying, but if you see him, like when he was young, he was always in the weight room, always lifting the heaviest weights — like he was a big meathead,’’ McCourty said. “So, he’ll probably say he does less meathead things and more functional movement and things like that. He’s still laughing, joking, he’s still a kid, and I think that’s good. I think it’s good for the team to have guys like that in the locker room. Sometimes around here, things are hard, we practice hard and there’s hard days. Bill’s not laughing often, so having guys like that helps in the locker room.’’
Jacob Hollister was the lone Patriot to miss practice Thursday as the second-year tight end deals with a hamstring injury. He was later spotted in the locker room. Receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (knee) and special teamer Brandon King (knee) were limited at the session . . . For the Jets, receivers Quincy Enunwa (ankle) and Jermaine Kearse (Achilles’) did not practice . . . The Jets placed tight end Eric Tomlinson on injured reserve and signed tight end Clive Walford to replace him for the season finale. ESPN reported that Tomlinson had a freak injury, dropping a weight on his foot while training. He lacerated two toes and needed surgery.