FOXBORO, Mass. — 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.”
NOTES: Coach Bill Belichick refused to comment on the TMZ photos of Brady cliff-diving in Costa Rica (pictures showed it was a lower level of rocks). Fed up with the line of questioning, Belichick said, “Do we have any, like, football questions?” He did say, “There are NFL rules and there are club rules; any discussions we have are handled internally and not publicly.” Said Gronkowski: “Didn’t even know about that. It’s Tom. He can do what he wants to do and you can ask him about it.” Asked if had ever dived off a cliff, the tight end said, “I did it when I was 12 years old. Not anymore.” . With offensive guard Brian Waters still a no-show and his status up in the air, the Patriots signed free-agent offensive tackle Darion Weems, an undrafted rookie from Oregon cut loose by the Minnesota Vikings Tuesday. They also activated offensive lineman Jeremiah Warren from the physically unable to perform list, giving the team 12 offensive linemen in camp. . Belichick said wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth, back for his second tour with the team, has shown the coaches a different side. “He’s matured a lot,” the coach said. “He’s been a very positive example and influence with what he does on a daily basis, but also some of the things he’s done with other players on the team. I think he’s shown a lot more leadership and he’s a very professional athlete. He really takes his job seriously and acts in a very professional way. He’s a great example for all of us on a daily basis. I’d say that’s definitely grown since he was here in ’07. He’s been through a lot (including 24 days in jail for DUI manslaughter), but he handles himself very well, and very professionally.” . Belichick on linebacker Dont’a Hightower, the second of the Patriots’ two first-round draft picks: “He’s a smart kid. He definitely understands football and football concepts. That comes pretty quickly to him and that’s good.” . Club personnel said the fan turnout for Day 2 of camp exceeded the 12,000 that were there opening day.