TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski has been in the end zone a lot more recently as he and Tom Brady prepare to tackle their eighth postseason together. No one is happier about how that arrangement has worked out than Brady, his longtime pal, even though Gronkowski playfully took back his Christmas present for Brady and actually regifted it.
“I actually took his Bumpboxx away from him and gave it to one of the cafeteria workers,” Gronkowski said Thursday, referring to the large, colorful Bluetooth boom boxes with microphones attached that provide not only locker room tunes but facilitate the occasional rap battle among players.
“I was like, ‘Tom, you don’t need the Bumpboxx,’” Gronkowski said. “And he agreed. I was like, ‘You’re a good guy.’ And then he gave me sunglasses …”
Brady laughed. “Did he tell you that?” he asked. “I’m happy he did that. I said, ‘Yes, you should absolutely do that.’ I’ve got a lot of great stories with him.”
But what’s interesting is that Brady’s favorite memory with Gronk wasn’t from any of their three Super Bowls together, where Gronk has come through with 23 catches for 297 receiving yards and three touchdowns — but a time when Gronk needed Brady to come through for him in the clutch.
“There was one time, he was getting ready for a GQ photo shoot and he didn’t think he was in good shape, so he called me up and it was like a Wednesday,” Brady said. “And he’s like, ‘Hey, can we work out together? Can we throw a little bit?’ So we went out on this baseball field, it was raining, it was like, I don’t know, April, it was nasty weather, and we hadn’t thrown a pass since the end of the season. And we threw probably 60 passes, routes, and we didn’t drop a ball. So it was like the ball never hit the ground.
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“And then he was like [lowers voice in an attempt to sound like Gronkowski], ‘Dude, that was great. That was perfect. That was just what I needed. I feel ripped now.’ And he was ready for his photo shoot because of one day of the two of us working out together. It was good execution, but I think for him, it was more important that he felt like he was shredded, and now he could go get ready for his GQ photo shoot. That’s one of the great stories. Just him being Rob. That’s why everyone loves him.”
All jokes aside, Brady has been thrilled to have Gronkowski in Tampa Bay for his first year in a new system and to help lead a team that has very little postseason experience. The two have a chance to break an important record in two weeks. Gronkowski and Brady have hooked up on 12 receiving touchdowns in the playoffs, which is tied with Joe Montana and Jerry Rice for the most postseason touchdowns by a QB-receiving target duo in NFL history, according to ESPN Stat & Information research.
“It’s been amazing. I’ve known him since he came in the league,” Brady said. “He has an incredible work ethic, [he’s] tough, [a] very unselfish player, [a] great teammate and does whatever you ask him to do.
“He knows how I feel about him. I’ve got a lot of trust and confidence in the biggest moments with him. Sometimes I think about players where if it was the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, who do I want in the game with me? He definitely fits that. That just means in the biggest moments, who do you want out there? When he can deliver like he always has, it’s a great compliment to him and the way that not only I feel about him, but how all his teammates feel about him. Just an incredible player, teammate and everything. I love playing with the guy.”
The feeling is mutual from Gronkowski, who said Brady is still the same guy he first caught passes from 10 years ago in Foxborough, Massachusetts, paving the way for a close friendship that ultimately brought the tight end out of retirement, even when he thought his body had had enough.
“As a player, he really hasn’t changed. From the second I first I met him, he’s been all-in — all-in with practices, all-in at meetings [and] all-in trying to get better every single day,” Gronkowski said. “It has just totally continued throughout his whole career all the way up to this point.”