The Gronk Watch is officially over.
And late Thursday afternoon, in a cool warehouse type room off the second floor of the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., it finally felt like the Super Bowl.
Why? Because the media circus was in full swing on the final day of media availability. No one on the New England Patriots commands more media attention than Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski.
And when Gronkowski has been out all week in concussion protocol, not allowed to take part in any media interviews, the media is starving for his good natured responses until the day he can talk.
That day was Thursday. At 4:30 p.m. central time, all of New England – and the nation, for that matter – got a full dose of Gronk, sitting on Riser 5 and holding court in front of a media crunch.
He was finally cleared in concussion protocol, getting the word from the team’s head trainer Jim Whalen, who told him, “You’re cleared Rob, congratulations.”
Music to his ears, his teammates ears, certainly and fans, and don’t forget all the media. Most of the other dozen Patriots on risers (the rest were at tables, as if at a wedding, on a level below) were lonely, except for Brady of course.
The sighs of relief may have been enough to add to the 15 below wind chill outside the big Mall.
“I’m happy to be back,” Gronkowski said. “When you’re seeing the guys go through the process throughout the week, you’re at practice with them and everything.
“Whatever they’re part of, you want to be part of it too. Doing everything with the team, doing media with the team. It just feels good to be back into the swing of things. … Everything went smooth, everything went well. I got the clearance, I’m good to go, ready to roll.”
It really was no secret that he was going to play. Fully expected. There were enough hints dropped during the week. In fact, some were surprised the Patriots just didn’t wait to clear him until after the media availability was done on Thursday; however, not clearing him likely would have limited his practice. He was a full participant Thursday.
But he was clearly getting ancy as the week went on.
“Going through the process, it’s not just relaxing and everything,” he said. “You’ve got to go through the process, seeing doctors. You know, they’ve got brain exercises and stuff to get you back, see how you’re feeling. I was around the stadium with the guys, watching film, seeing if I could see something, seeing what I could do to get better. Just doing it all so I could be the best I could be on Sunday with my teammates.
“Every time you get to play in the Super Bowl, you have to cherish the moment, no matter what.”
Maybe he cherishes this one even more since he wasn’t able to play in last year’s Super Bowl due to back surgery. He didn’t want to talk about that. “I mean, we’ve got the Eagles up now,” he said. “We’ve got to move on. I’ve moved on, and I’m preparing for the Philadelphia Eagles, man. Big game Sunday, that’s all I’m looking forward to.”
His teammates obviously were happy to have him back.
“Feels good, man,” Patriots corner Malcolm Butler said. “Feels good to have my tight end back.”
Gronkowski had a big grin as he answered questions with a Latin reporter.
After the Super Bowl, he told him, “Hopefully we’ll have fiesta.”
Yep, the Gronk Watch is over for sure.
Tom King can be reached at 594-1251, firstname.lastname@example.org., or @Telegraph_TomK.