In just his second season in 2011, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski set records catching 90 passes for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns. Before the season he was an unknown backup tight end but became a house-hold name. Following the Patriots loss in Super Bowl XLVI, Gronkowski embarked on a summer to remember which included an appearance on a reality TV show, posing nude for a magazine, and co-hosting a network television program. Now with training camp under way, it’s back to his day job of football and he’s got competition.
Outside of the partying and self-promotion Gronkowski did recover from his ankle surgery passing his physical at the start of training camp. But despite his $54 million contract extension, he will have to work for his job.
It won’t be easy for Gronkowski to get back to his old self. His struggle was apparent during the first few days as he fumbled the ball multiple times which is something previously unseen with the All-Pro. While Gronkowski has become a big name, that won’t impress Bill Belichick. A no-nonsense guy who cares about nothing but winning, Belichick is known for playing the person for the job as shown last season in his treatment of for All-Pro Chad Johnson.
There’s also Aaron Hernandez. Drafted by the Patriots the same year as Gronkowski, Hernandez was a major part of the Patriots offense in 2011 too racking up 79 receptions for 910 yards and seven touchdowns. After seeing the pay day that Gronkowski was given and with his own contract expiring after next season, he has something to prove. If the Patriots make a change and Hernandez becomes too expensive, this season will be the start of an audition for other teams. On the field, while Gronkowski has started a little slow, Hernandez has been great and has showed the fire needed to overtake his teammate.
The Patriots also made an interesting addition at tight end recently. Visanthe Shiancoe has been a successful tight end for the past nine seasons and was in demand by several teams when he decided to sign with the Patriots. This is another player who will be fighting for playing time during training camp that Gronkowski will be competing with.
While it’s likely that Gronkowski will be the go-to tight end come September, it isn’t a guaranteed spot for the star. There is still a lot of work to be done in order for him to make sure he’s completely healthy for the start of the season. There will also be plenty of competition for him as the Patriots are loaded at the position of tight end. This will just be one of many interesting stories with the New England Patriots to be watched over the coming weeks.