Saturday July 28, 2012

Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH -- The "Summer of Gronk" now over, All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski said he has only one thing on his mind.

"It's training camp time. When it's football time, it's all football, nothing but football. I'm glad to be back," Gronkowski said Friday after the second day of New England Patriots training camp.

"Missed the locker room. Missed the teammates. Missed competing versus the defense. So far, the last two days, [I'm] having a lot of fun out there competing as hard as we can. Everyone's getting better. Just focusing on my job and that's all I care about -- my job out on the football field."

The "Summer of Gronk" began after Gronkowski, who set NFL records for a tight end with 17 touchdown catches and 1,327 yards receiving, played hurt in the Patriots' Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants (two catches, 26 yards) because of an injured left ankle.

He needed surgery on the ankle the week after the game -- but that was just the start of the wild and whacky
offseason.

Gronkowski, in no particular order, won a celebrity home run derby at the Triple-A All-Star Game (reportedly hitting one 325 feet), appeared on The Choice, a dating show, co-hosted Access Hollywood Live, judged a celebrity bikini contest in Las Vegas and walked the ESPY's red carpet. He also attended the premier of the movie "Ted," hung out with Kim Kardashian, was one of the naked cover boys for ESPN The Magazine, and ran a viral video campaign trying to land on the cover of the Madden video game.

Oh, and he also signed a six-year contract extension worth $54 million - the richest deal ever given to a tight end. It includes $18.17 million in guaranteed money.

But all that was then and this is now.

Gronkowski, asked if anyone on the coaching staff talked to him about toning things down a bit off the field, said, "You can ask the coaches that. It's football time now and that's all I'm worried about . football, football, football -- getting better out on the field every day.

"All I focus on is football. I love the game. That's my No. 1 passion."

Fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez, asked about his teammate's antics, said he doesn't pay attention to most of that stuff.

"I'm sure he was having fun," Hernandez said. "I definitely get laughs when people tell me about some of the stuff. I'm more laid back."

As far as Gronkowski the football player, Hernandez said, "He's still a beast. He's a freak of nature. He can make plays, especially when you have a good quarterback like Tom [Brady] to throw you the ball. Tom's going to put it in the right place.

"When you're 6-7, with 7-something arm reach, not many people are going to be able to get their hands there to stop you."

Gronkowski, who caught 90 passes last season, just wants to keep improving. And being healthy is the first step.

"Hundred percent," he said when asked how he feels. "I'm out there every day. What does it look like? I'm going pretty hard. It's good. You saw me out there. I'm out there."

And he won't look back at the injury.

"This is training camp now," he said. "This is 2012 we're in. New season. Just trying to get better. All I care about is tomorrow now."