By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The topic of whether or not it’s “fun” to be a member of the Patriots was oddly a major discussion point this past offseason. So, too, was the matter of Rob Gronkowski’s happiness in his situation on the team, which led to speculation that he might even retire.
And while Gronkowski’s relationship with Bill Belichick was seemingly smoothed over in April, that storyline came rushing back to the forefront on Sunday when Adam Schefter reported that Gronkwoski threatened retirement when informed he was close to getting traded to the Lions. In a moment of honesty, Gronkowski then confirmed that report when asked about that report after Sunday night’s loss.
Now there’s this nugget, which was sprinkled in to NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran’s column from Tuesday. The column was about what Belichick will do to get his 1-2 Patriots back on track sooner than later, but it included one line that jumped out:
“Gronk got fined in 2017 for carrying Brandin Cooks off the field after a touchdown.”
The casual dropping of knowledge here shines a light on that “Patriots culture” which has come under the microscope a bit over the past nine months or so.
As you likely remember, Gronkowski played the role of pony for Cooks’ celebration, allowing the receiver to hop on his back and go for a ride after a touchdown against Miami last November.
It provided some light humor in the midst of a long season, and it stood out because the Patriots had not engaged in any group celebrations in 2017, despite the relaxation of the celebration rules. Where some teams were constructing bowling ball scenes or playing hide and seek behind the goalposts or playing Duck, Duck, Goose and what have you, Patriots players were pretty much resigned to just spiking the bejesus out of the football and then sharing some hugs and headbutts with teammates.
And it was noticeable after the game that Gronkowski felt muzzled when asked about the celebration.
“Yeah, I — that was not planned or anything. And, um, he, uh … [nervous laugh]. We got yelled at. We’re not allowed to talk about celebrations,” a perplexed Gronkowski said after that victory. “That’s what we got told. But I kinda want to talk about it. But I kinda don’t, because I’ll get in trouble. So I don’t know what to do. So it just happened on the spot, it wasn’t planned. We’ll just keep it there.”
Based on the new nugget of information, Gronkowski received more than a talking-to for the celebration.
In February, Curran reported that the “atmosphere in New England” had started to wear on Gronkowski, physically and mentally, to the point where the tight end contemplated retiring during training camp. A report also surfaced detailing an instance of Belichick chastising Gronkowski in front of the rest of the team during training camp in 2017.