With training camp officially kicking off in Massachusetts, New England Patriots fans will enjoy this tidbit of news: according to beat write Phil Perry, oft-injured tight end Rob Gronkowski looked excellent:
* Gronkowski for the sheer fact that he looked to be unencumbered by his knee.
* Early on in tight end drills, Gronkowski stutter-stepped around a bag, planted on his right leg, and went to corner of the end zone for a touchdown catch. He was moving very well considering the circumstances.
Outside of Tom Brady, no players health matters more to the New England Patriots. Gronk’s injury history dates back to the 2011 NFL playoffs. Since then, Gronk has appeared in 18 of the available 32 games. Most importantly, Gronk’s injuries have kept him from competing in the AFC championship, largely affecting what the Patriots could do on the offensive end when defenses cut off the short routes due to the receivers inability to stretch the field.
With Gronk on the field, the Patriots have the biggest tight end threat occupying the middle of the field. With the defensive having to key in on the 6’6 all-pro tight end, the rest of the field opens up for Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, and second-year receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrall Thompkins.
Now appearing to be healthy, the sky is the limit for the Patriots this season. With Brady in his latter years, it’s championship or bust every season. They’ve improve the defense, both in free agency (Darrelle Revis) and in-house (Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo return from injuries). With Gronk back at 100 percent, this may be the best Patriots team since the 2007 18-1 club.
But as the past has shown us, if Gronk is unable to strut through the regular season and playoffs, the Patriots chances will diminish before our eyes.