By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — According to an ESPN report over the weekend, Rob Gronkowski is likely to return to the Patriots next season. However, no final decision has been made, so there hasn’t really been tremendous progress in the offseason saga of whether the all-world tight end will continue his playing career or ride off into the Hollywood sunset.

But as part of his report, Jeff Darlington shared an interesting angle to the fraying relationship between Gronkowski and head coach Bill Belichick. As someone who utters “MyFace” and “SnapFace” with great disdain on a regular basis, perhaps it should come as no surprise that Belichick has not been a fan of Gronkowski’s offseason work in the social media stratosphere.

“Belichick is a little bit frustrated because he feels like Gronkowski is not ‘all in,’ which is obviously a critical component to his blueprint,” Darlington said on SportsCenter. “He has cited things to people close to him as nuanced as an Instagram post. A Gronkowski post about Danny Amendola signing with the Miami Dolphins, under which he said, ‘Be FREE, be HAPPY.’ That didn’t exactly make Belichick very happy. He was reading the underlying message there, he wants to know that Gronkowski is all in.”

Yes, the same level of passive-aggressive snippiness can tear apart relationships both at the high school level and within the most successful, multi-billion dollar organization in sports.

Here’s a look at that post in question:

To interpret some of Gronkowski’s offseason social media messages required a certain level of reading between the lines, but that message in particular seemed to be pretty clear. And though Belichick would never admit to putting stock in anything said on these social media networks, he apparently didn’t enjoy hearing about that one.

Darlington shared what may have been at the root of such frustration bubbling over on social media.

“We’re talking about frustrations on both sides of the aisle here. For Gronkowski, he is just physically and mentally spent, and doesn’t feel like much has changed this offseason to make him think that that’s going to be any different this coming year,” Darlington said. “That being said, like I mentioned, he is pretty certain he’s coming back, as long as Brady’s committed.”

According to Darlington, though, Gronkowski is “pretty certain” he’ll return to the Patriots next year, so long as No. 12 is still leading the huddle.

“Gronkowski is truly considering retirement and was really even in the regular season, because of the physical and mental anguish that he was feeling as a result of the 2017 season,” Darlington said. “But Tom Brady is the strong force in his mind right now. If Tom is committed, then Gronkowski feels like he is committed.”

And though Gronkowski’s relationship with Belichick is clearly not at the same level as his relationship with Brady, Darlington said the issues can be solved. It just might take some time.

“I want to be clear here: This is not an irreconcilable situation. This is something where many around both people feel like time could ease this bit of disjointed nature between the two,” Darlington said. “It is a fluid situation but one I believe can be rectified in the coming days, weeks, and perhaps, months.”

OTAs for the Patriots will be held some time in late May and early June. The picture of where Gronkowski stands with Belichick and the Patriots may not be clear until then. That is, unless we get some more social media messages to stoke the flames.

Comments (7)
  1. Bill Branch says:

    Get rid of Brady and Gronkowski. Both are prima donnas. The Patriots should not be getting direction from a forty-year-old with a mouthful of crowns who’s afraid to take a hit or from a tight end who’s hurt half the time and who is too stupid to buy a home security sustem.

  2. John Kennedy says:

    Wow Bill I hope your just kidding. I do agree that players shouldn’t make personnel decision or coaching moves.

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