By Michael Hurley, CBS dangolka
dangolka (CBS) — So far as soccer gamers go, they don’t make ’em a lot better than Rob Gronkowski. Huge, highly effective, quick, robust, fearless, more durable than nails — few gamers within the historical past of the game have ever even approached Gronkowski’s energy at his peak.
So when the longer term Corridor of Famer got here out of retirement and labored the system for the Patriots to commerce him to Tampa Bay to reunite with Tom Brady, a refrain of “what provides?” resounded all through the New England area.
With two video games within the books, although, it doesn’t seem just like the Patriots are lacking out on a lot, if something, with Rob Gronkowski.
To an extent, a gradual begin was to be anticipated for the 31-year-old who didn’t play any soccer from February 2019 till September of 2020. And even in Gronkowski’s last yr, he was efficient as a blocker and occasional go catcher (and Tremendous Bowl-winning-play-maker, after all), however he wasn’t the explosive risk that he had been all through his profession. That’s why the commerce return for Gronkowski (plus a seventh-round choose) was so low, with the Patriots merely receiving a fourth-round choose for probably the most dominant gamers in league historical past.
So, expectations — at the very least to start out the season — had been understandably low.
Regardless of that low bar, Gronkowski has nonetheless underwhelmed in his two video games with Tampa to date.
As a receiver, he’s been focused 4 occasions. He has caught two of these passes, for a complete of 11 yards. Of the 9 Buccaneers gamers to have been focused this yr, Gronkowski has the fewest targets, the fewest receptions, the fewest receiving yards, and the fewest snap counts.
A go to No. 87 on Sunday resulted in a Brady interception, which seemed prefer it occurred as a result of Gronkowski was so late to come back out of his break and drive up the sphere.
It’s attainable that Brady merely let that one sail (they do like to play the blame sport down in Tampa, don’t they?), however the backside line is that the Brady-Gronkowski connection was imagined to be a serious power of that doubtlessly deadly Bucs offense this yr. Thus far, it’s been something however threatening.
Apparently, the person who bullied his method via contact that will have drawn penalties on most different receivers was the beneficiary of one of many softest go interference penalties in league historical past:
Even that, although, was a go that the actual Gronkowski catches in stride earlier than deflecting away the helpless security and rumbling alongside for 40 yards. This one, although, simply wasn’t there.
When Gronkowski has gotten the ball in his fingers, it’s been … uneventful.
There was a glimpse of the previous Gronk there, bowling over a defensive again. But it surely’s all hardly what Brady or the Bucs had in thoughts once they made the deal to coax the participant out of retirement.
After all — after all after all after all after all — you may’t say something concerning the NFL season in September of 2020 with out noting that it’s the strangest season of all time and saying that there was no preseason. It’s not unrealistic to consider that Gronkowski and the Buccaneers deliberate an easing in of kinds to sort out soccer right here, in an effort to assist work him into sport form by November and December.
In that case, then that’s plan. Possibly it’ll work.
However simply from an eyeball standpoint, the 87 on the market as of late appears much more just like the continuation of the participant who light in 2018 after giving each ounce of himself to the game of soccer for the earlier 15 or so years. Gronkowski clearly saved himself in form throughout his retirement, however going up in opposition to NFL competitors, he appears at occasions to be working in quicksand.
He’s nonetheless lots huge and he’s lots robust, and with Brady underneath heart, he’ll absolutely come via with a clutch seize in an enormous second this season. He’s too gifted to not.
However when it comes to the unstoppable power, first poll Corridor of Famer who ran roughshod via the whole lot of the NFL from 2011-18? It could seem as if that participant sadly stays in retirement.
You possibly can electronic mail Michael Hurley or discover him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.