BOSTON (CBS) — At times, Rob Gronkowski is virtually unstoppable. The Patriots’ All-Pro tight end has the size to beat coverage from defensive backs and the speed to outrun linebackers down the field. Gronk’s physical playing style has often led to defensive backs clutching and grabbing him in coverage, which referees can’t exactly flag (or even notice) all the time.
And he doesn’t blame them for it.
Speaking to reporters at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, Gronkowski was asked about how he handles the physicality of defensive backs and whether he feels corners and safeties “take liberties” with him in order to slow him down. He admitted that the illegal contact happens often, but he’s not surprised about it.
“If I was one of those DBs, and you’ve seen film over the last few years, I mean, I would definitely be doing that if I was a DB, 100 percent,” said Gronkowski. “I mean, you don’t really see it called ever, so you’ve just got to play with it, play how the game is called. If I was a DB, I’d do that too.”
Though Gronk sounded as if he was calling out the referees for not doing their jobs and calling more penalties, he understands that the officiating is beyond his control and he can’t play with the refs in the back of his mind – or he’d cease to be himself.
“I feel like, whenever I think – like, I think about that, like ‘Oh I can’t be physical because of the referee, like I might get a penalty’ – I actually feel myself off my game,” said Gronkowski. “So I feel like I should just play my game and just [not] worry about what the refs call and be physical, and I don’t like thinking like that.
“You just don’t feel right. So I’m just going to stick to my game and do what I do and do it better.”
The Saints are likely to start two rookies, safety Marcus Williams and cornerback Marshon Lattimore, in the secondary against Gronk and the Patriots on Sunday in New Orleans. Veteran safety Kenny Vaccaro is likely to draw Gronk in coverage, but is far from the player that the Chiefs’ Eric Berry is. Expect the Saints to have a much harder time containing Gronk than the Chiefs did – and for more clutching and grabbing to occur.