Gronkowski now focusing on season opener
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — For the second straight year, the Patriots have tried to show Rob Gronkowski how much he’s valued.
The All-Pro tight end says he’s feeling the love and is looking forward to showing them his appreciation on the field.
Last week the Patriots added $4.3 million in incentives to Gronkowski’s contract over the next two seasons. The deal includes $1 million in per game bonuses and $3.3 million in incentives for catches, playing time and touchdowns.
It is the second consecutive season the team has added sweeteners to the 29-year-old’s contract. Last season the incentives New England gave him pushed his compensation to more than $10 million.
With this latest restructured deal he has the potential to make $12.3 million this season and $13.3 million next year. It could again place him among the league’s highest-paid tight ends as he prepares to open his ninth NFL season Sunday against Houston.
“It’s definitely a relief to have that all out of the way,” Gronkowski said Tuesday. “That was last week. That’s in the past, which is good. I’m just gonna put my main focus on the Houston Texans.”
This new pact comes after Gronk made a silent statement by skipping the voluntary portion of offseason workouts.
When he returned for the mandatory minicamp he wasn’t bashful in saying he’d like to see his contract redone again on the heels of other NFL players getting offseason raises.
Gronk insisted that there was never any acrimony between himself and the Patriots this summer over his contract.
“It didn’t weigh on me at all,” he said. “I mean, everything is always ‘in the works.’ Nothing is just gonna happen in a day when it’s something like that. It’s in the past. … It’s go-time now.”
Gronkowski put himself in position to renegotiate after leading the team in receptions (69), receiving yards (1,084) and receiving touchdowns (eight) last season.
Though he never contemplated holding out, Gronkowski said he isn’t envious of some of the heftier contracts that some of his NFL peers have gotten recently.
“I’m super-satisfied with my situation,” he said. “If I wasn’t, then I would try to pull a move like they (did). It just works out. You get rewarded for holding out. But I’m not frustrated at all. … I’m ready to play.”
He expected to again be one of 41-year-old quarterback Tom Brady’s top targets in the passing game. His importance to the offense will only be amplified with receiver Julian Edelman suspended for the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancers.
Brady is also adjusting to some new receivers, following the trade of Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams and Danny Amendola signing a free agent deal with Miami.
With Edelman out, Chris Hogan — entering his third season in New England — is the most-tenured receiver Brady will have at the start of the season.
Special teams captain Matt Slater is listed as a receiver. But he has caught just one pass in 10 seasons with the Patriots.
Still, Gronk said he doesn’t feel any extra pressure to produce more than he normally does.
“There’s always pressure around this building, no matter what the situation is,” he said. “When you lose a guy, or for example when they lose me out there on the field, the goal is just to keep on maintaining what you’re doing.
“No matter who is in there, who’s not, I just gotta keep focusing on my job and keep helping the team the best way I can.”
NOTES: Jacksonville cornerback Jalen Ramsey made headlines last week when he told “ESPN The Magazine” that “I don’t think Gronk is as great as people think he is.” Asked if he had any reaction, Gronkowski said he’d defer responding for now. “We got the Houston Texans this week,” he said. “That will just be another time and place to talk about (that). But, as of right now, I’m just focused on the Texans.” New England visits Jacksonville on Sept. 16.