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Super Bowl XLIX: Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski in a league of his own

Early in this Super Bowl week, Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll fielded a question about New England tight end Rob Gronkowski.

“It’s interesting you should bring that up,” Carroll said, “because today I went back to a (video) cut-up of Rob just to check him out, to see if there’s some things we could help our guys out on.”

So make no mistake: Gronk is on their minds.

And it’s not difficult to grasp why Carroll and the Seahawks are still doing their homework. Though he’s become more renowned for his outsized lifestyle, Gronkowski is one of the most fearsome offensive weapons in the NFL.

The basic numbers say enough: 82 catches in 2014 for 1,124 yards, most by an NFL tight end, and 12 touchdowns. Nineteen of those catches have gone for 20 yards or more, 73 percent for first downs.

Some of that is a function of being healthy for the first time in three years. Injuries limited him in both 2012 and 2013, and in New England’s last Super Bowl appearance he played with a severe ankle sprain.

There’s also the business of him being 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds.

The easy assumption is that Gronkowski simply bulls past a defender to find his open space, and then bulls over a few more for extra yardage after the catch. But it isn’t necessarily so.

“I believe he excels sometimes (against) physical coverage, and he excels (against) off coverage,” said Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright. “But for the most part, what I’ve seen is guys that are on him have more success than guys who (play) off.”

Like any receiver, getting a clean start to his route makes Gronkowski more effective, his physical advantages notwithstanding.

But there’s something else.

It may be his party animal reputation, but Gronkowski doesn’t get enough credit for a serious approach to his position, at least according to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

“What he’s done a great job at over the last few years is really understanding his individual technique of what he needs to do to try and be a better player,” said Brady. “When you watch a lot of guys that have done it so well for so long, the Antonio Gates, the Tony Gonzalzes and the Jason Wittens, you see things and you try to take those to your game.

“Gronk’s done such a great job of kind of refining his own techniques and really going from just a great athlete who catches footballs to really a great tight end that knows how to run routes, knows how to block, understands coverages and how to gain leverages.”

Not that it necessarily matters how he does it.

“That’s their playmaker,” said Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor. “That’s their go-to guy.”


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