The Patriots are looking for a reason to believe that this Super Bowl will be different, and Rob Gronkowski could be the answer.
The Patriots are preparing for the franchise's eighth Super Bowl appearance. After losing to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII in 2008 and Super Bowl XLVI in 2012, the Patriots are looking for a reason to believe that this Super Bowl against the Seahawks will be different. Their star tight end, Rob Gronkowski, could be the key.
"It's an honour to be back in the Super Bowl," Gronkowski said. "This year we stuck together as a team.
"We fought all year long. It's an honour, for sure. Just have to keep working hard and keep preparing hard.
"All the little things, all the noise around, just block it off and just focus. Focus like it's any other week, just practice like it"s any other week, go to meetings like it's any other week, and let all the distractions do their own thing outside."
Like many athletes, Gronkowski is commonly misunderstood. Despite his lavish lifestyle and outrageous behaviour, he actually takes his job quite seriously. His wild persona may overshadow his intelligence and dedication at times, but he remains one of the most dynamic players and most productive tight ends in the league. With 82 catches for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns this season, the Patriots expect Gronkowski to be the difference in Sunday's showdown.
"Rob always has a great energy and enthusiasm for the game, is always ready to go, loves to practice, loves to work, works hard in the weight room, competes well all the time," coach Bill Belichick said.
Making his second Super Bowl appearance, Gronkowski is hoping for a different outcome than his first. He's already off to a good start.
"It's a lot better," Gronkowski said of his improved health in this year's Super Bowl. "I remember a few years ago being here, every single question was about my ankle. It's cool to come here, just chill, just worry about the Seattle Seahawks, just worrying about practice and see what I"ve got to do."
Gronkowski has battled his fair share of injuries, including strained ligaments in his ankle, a broken forearm, and a tear in his ACL and MCL. Still, the 6-6, 265-pound beast is a force to be reckoned with.
"When anyone goes through adversity it all depends on how they react to it and how they handle it, and I definitely feel like everything I've been through definitely made me a stronger person," Gronkowski added.
As for Belichick, he admires Gronkowski's indisputable devotion.
"Coming back multiple times, he"s come back from various setbacks, and I think the fact that it"s gone well, that he continues to feel better and better each week," Belichick said.
"I think that certainly any time you either lose something or go without something for a little while, you have that appreciation when you"re able to regain it or even possibly move up to a little bit higher level, which I would say probably is the case with him.
"In the end, the credit goes to Rob. He works hard, he competes well, he listens, we tell him to do something and he really tries hard to do it. I have tremendous respect for Rob and the way he goes about his job."