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December 13, 2018

Mehta: Gotta love Gronkowski, laughing all the way to the end

November 23, 2018

Rob Gronkowski might resemble a corpse in shoulder pads these days, but he’s still the same happy-go-lucky, lovable guy who has endeared himself to so many people for the past decade.

The Patriots All-Pro tight end addressed a Daily News column and back page this week that spoofed the late-80s comedy Weekend at Bernie’s. The back page centered on an banged-up Gronk being propped up by Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

When asked directly Friday whether he had seen the Daily News back page, a pensive Gronk rubbed his chin.

“(From) what I heard, it was a crazy weekend though at my house,” Gronkowski said before breaking into a laugh. “S–t gets crazy!”

Gronk was asked a follow-up query about whether my column served to motivate him (as if a future Hall of Famer would need such a nudge).

“It is what it is,” said Gronkowski, slipping back into stoic character inside the gates of The Evil Empire. “We got a big game Sunday. That’s all that matters. Got to get ready. Got to get prepared… and just focus on Sunday.”

By every objective measure, Gronk is no longer Gronk on the field. He’s a shell of his former dominant self, sapped of his superpowers by a litany of injuries.

Injured New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, center, watches from the sideline in the first half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans Sunday, Nov. 11, (Mark Zaleski / AP)

The 29-year-old tight end has missed three of the past four games due to back and ankle issues. Although he declared Friday that he’s “good to go and excited to be back out there with the team,” the odds are that he won’t return to his former dominant self.

Gronk, frankly, is impossible to dislike. Who wouldn’t want chug beers with the guy?

But his days of being a week-to-week difference maker appear to be over. He’s looked like a senior citizen for much of the season, trudging along and even looking clumsy at times.

Maybe he’ll torch the Jets, but how will his body respond the following week? And the week after that?

That’s the central issue.

Daily News backpage from November 21, 2018.
Daily News backpage from November 21, 2018. (Daily News)

It’s likely been difficult for Belichick, Brady and Josh McDaniels each week not truly knowing what to expect from Gronk.

The bad news for the Jets, of course, is that Gronk hasn’t played in three weeks, so he should be as fresh as he can be for a dude who’s body has been treated like a crash-test dummy for nine years.

Gronkowski torched the Texans (7 catches for 123 yards and a TD) in the season opener. Of course, he had about seven months of rest before that game. There have been flashes of the Gronk that we all remember (see: Week 6 vs the Chiefs and his terrific sideline catch in Buffalo last month).

So, it’s conceivable that Gronk could be a pain in the Jets posterior on Sunday coming off extended rest.

“He’ll be a game-breaking talent until he retires,” Todd Bowles said this week. “That’s the only time you don’t have to worry about him.”

Gronk might have lost a lot of things as his body has broken down, but I know something he’ll never lose: His sense of humor.

Weekend at Gronk’s?

I’m sure s–t would indeed get crazy.

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