Gronk On The Mend
--Tight end Rob
Gronkowski is still wearing a walking boot
recovers from February left ankle surgery that initially left him in a
cast. But the All-Pro remains quite optimistic about his health and
swift recovery from the injury that limited him in New England's Super
"It's great. I'm like six and a half weeks out of
surgery. I'm just getting better every day, taking it week by week and
day by day," Gronkowski said recently with his trademark smile. "I'm
walking around now. Everything is on pace. Hopefully I'm 100 percent
when it comes down to the time I'm supposed to be."
Gronkowski hopes to be out of the walking boot in
the near future.
"That's all in a couple more weeks," Gronkowski said. "I'm just getting
better every single day. I feel way better than last week. I feel way
better since the first day of the surgery. It's coming along really
well. Here on out, day by day, whatever I can do I'll be doing it. I'm
definitely trying to get out there as soon as possible."
Insider's Take: Gronk will be
ready for camp, probably even OTAs which are typically set in
May. His injury late in the playoffs exposed the Patriots'
lack of depth at the position. Daniel Fells
signed to a deal to help with that issue, but the Patriots are also
looking at tight ends for the 2012 NFL Draft. More
New Position Coach
Patriots tight end coach Brian Ferentz having moved on to take a
position on his father's staff at Iowa,
New England's dynamic young
tight end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez
will have a new
coach in 2012. The Patriots have made no announcement, but the likely
in-house candidate is George Godsey. Godsey served as an offensive
assistant in New England last season, focusing a lot of his attention
on the development of rookie third-string quarterback Ryan Mallett.
Though Gronkowski knows there will be an
adjustment period, he doesn't expect the change in coaching to be an
"(Ferentz) is a great coach. I'm definitely going to miss the guy. I
learned a lot from him," Gronkowski said. "I'm definitely going to
apply what I learned from him in the following years. Just because he
left doesn't mean I can't still use his techniques, his way that he
runs things. It's just another coach that's going to be adding on to
the things that he taught me. I'm just going to get better in every way
and just apply whatever the coaches teach me."
[Editor's Note: Branch was officially Signed today]
--Wide receiver Deion Branch re-signed with the
team on a one-year deal. He told WEEI Radio in Boston that he didn't
even consider testing free-agent waters or joining another team.
"I didn't have that thought. I didn't even want to
allow that to creep into my mind," Branch said. "My biggest thing is
that I want to make sure I retire a Patriot, whenever that comes about,
whether it's two years from now, three years from now, who knows?
That's my goal, and once I sat down with coach (Bill Belichick) and the
front office, they felt the same way."
After catching 51 passes for 702 yards with five
touchdowns last season, Branch returns to a new-look receiving corps
for the Patriots that's added Brandon
so far this offseason.
He looks forward to the competition.
"It brings out the best in you," Branch said.
"That's what it is all about. Competition is always good. I think going
into this year, it's going to be very exciting to see what this next
receiving group will look like for next season. I'm very excited to get
started within a couple weeks with the offseason program. I think
that's where everything starts, then it's going to roll into minicamp
and training camp."
Insider's Take: Deion Branch will have to
fight the stockpile of new faces at the receiver position in 2012 just
to make the roster. The team typically carries 10-12 receivers in
camp. Last year the Patriots had six receivers on
the roster in January (Branch, Chad
and Matt Slater)
on the practice squad. That should be a similar story in 2012.
Restructured Ocho Still Not A Lock For Roster Spot
--Wide receiver Chad Ochocinco restructured his
contract with New England. The receiver, who caught just 15 passes in
his first year with the Patriots while pocketing $6 million, cut his
2012 salary from $3 to $1 million as he looks to compete for a job in
What will Bill Belichick's expectations be for the
former Pro Bowl receiver in his second season in New England?
"I think I have the same expectations for all our
players, it doesn't make a difference who they are or what year they
are in -- come in, work hard, be prepared, go out there and compete on
the field. There is no difference for any player - first year, second
year, 10th year. They are here to play football for us, that's what
they need to do," Belichick said.
Insider's Take: Ochocinco may be
back, purely due to the respect the team has for the former star
receiver. But returning to camp with a restructured contract will not
guarantee Ochcocinco a roster spot in September. Reportedly
slow to pick up the Patriots offensive scheme, Ochocinco will have to
work hard to improve in that area to get on the same page with Tom Brady.
A shortened offseason is the likely culprit in
Ochocinco's struggles. There will be no such excuse to fall back on
this year. 15 catches for 276 yards is not enough to justify a roster
spot or his salary.
No Light At The End Of The Tunnel?
--Left tackle Matt Light, who appears ready to
call it a career after 12 seasons in New England protecting Tom Brady's
back, was elected to the NFLPA executive council at the group's annual
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You want to get started on that
trip? You might want to go to Paris then Amsterdam then swing down to
Rome and then back to London for the game. Maybe we'll go to Moscow for
an afternoon walkthrough." - A joking Bill Belichick at the NFL
meetings when asked about his team's scheduled late October trip to
London to face the Rams.
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