Matt Rourke/Associated Press
We may not have seen the last of Gronk, the Steelers might not be done yet and Robert Kraft’s lunch partner is raising some eyebrows. All of that and more in this week’s 10-Point Stance.
1. Mr. Reliable, Robbie G
This week, the “recently retired” Patriots tight end spent some time at UCLA working out with an old friend—Tom Brady.
“Tom needs someone to throw to,” Gronkowski told TMZ Sports. “So, you know, he calls Mr. Reliable, Robbie G, the one and only.”
(Just once, I want someone to call me Mr. Reliable, Mikey F, the one and only.)
This isn’t to say a Gronkowski return is guaranteed to be in the works. But as we’ve reported before, some of his former Patriots teammates believe he will miss football so much this fall, he will return for one more shot, particularly if the Patriots are in contention (and they will be).
Gronkowski’s recent actions only deepen that belief.
It doesn’t mean he’s officially back. It just means Gronkowski is feeling the same pull that many players who love the game so much—from Michael Jordan to Jerry Rice—feel after retiring.
Despite all he has accomplished and the accolades he has received, Gronk may not be able to quit football, even though it wrecks his body.
The adrenaline rush. The power. The locker room. The camaraderie.
It’s a drug, but it’s also just…love.
So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if No. 87 makes a return late in the season.
After all, it is Mr. Reliable, Robbie G, the one and only. Football is what he does.
2. Pittsburgh goes to Washington
Keith Srakocic/Associated Press
This may sound a bit strange, but stay with me, OK?
I believe one of the keys to the Steelers’ upcoming season—as well as the AFC at large—is a man from Abilene, Texas, who grew up playing tennis and could have made the NBA.
His name is James Washington, and he could be the No. 2 receiver for the Steelers opposite JuJu Smith-Schuster.
I’ve heard Washington, a 2018 second-round pick who caught 16 passes for 217 yards as a rookie, compared to Dez Bryant. Some inside the team and others outside of it believe Washington has a chance to be Smith-Schuster’s equal, or even surpass him.
“You talk about a young dude who’s up-and-coming, it’s going to be James Washington. A guy from Oklahoma State, came to the Steelers his rookie year, started off slow but figured it out and got the ropes down.
“This past summer workouts that we had, he’s been doing amazing, a great job. I’m super excited to see how he does this year. He’s our guy that’s going to sneak up on everybody.”
That could make things interesting for a Steelers team expected to take a step back after trading away Antonio Brown and watching Le’Veon Bell leave in free agency. If Smith-Schuster excels (he will) and Washington does break out, the Steelers might have something.
3. In the eye of the beholder
Joe Sargent/Getty Images
There’s another theory floating around about the Steelers. According to some assistant coaches around the league, Pittsburgh might be better off without Bell.
I don’t buy it myself, but here’s how the thinking goes:
Bell is a star. He can change a game at any moment with his explosiveness. James Conner isn’t a star, but he is steady, and that plug-and-play aspect might be better suited for the Pittsburgh offense as it’s currently constructed.
To paraphrase the old saying, steady wins the race.
To me, this is like saying I would be a better casting fit for a movie than Tom Cruise. After all, I’d cost a lot less and probably make fewer requests in my contract, but you’d still rather see Cruise on the big screen.
Or something like that.
Conner may fit what the Steelers want to do better than Bell, but what the Steelers do may not be all that exciting to see.
4. May the road you take be a smooth one
One more thing on the Steelers—promise.
Some coaches think that even though the Ravens won the AFC North last year, they might take a temporary step back this season, opening the door for the Steelers to win the division. The thinking goes that second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson might struggle adapting to a new offense before he becomes a future star. And while the Browns may be the “it” team, they aren’t quite ready to jump atop the standings.
That leaves Pittsburgh with the stability, experience and talent to take the AFC North.
We’ll see how that works out, but if the Steelers can keep their key guys healthy, this theory makes sense.
5. Promises made, promises kept?
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
After skipping OTAs and a minicamp last year, Jones told TMZ Sports that he will be in training camp on time this year thanks to a promise he got from owner Arthur Blank to strike a new deal.
“Mr. Blank gave us his word,” Jones said. “… That’s golden.”
That’s good news for the Falcons and bad news for opposing defensive backs.
6. Wentz watch
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
Word is the Eagles are seeing a different Carson Wentz so far this offseason and believe he’s going to have a huge year.
Sure, this is what teammates are supposed to say. However, something seems different with Eagles players. It almost as if a Wentz cult is forming in the Philly locker room.
Just look at what Eagles tackle Lane Johnson said on NFL Network’s NFL Total Access:
“I love it, every day when I go in the building, all I see is him in there before everybody else, rehabbing, doing whatever it takes. I just think he’s really on a different mental state than he’s ever been as far as training and ignoring distractions and really trying to be the best player he is. So, I just see that worker and a guy who is about to do some big things this season.”
7. A friend in need…
Susan Walsh/Associated Press
If there was any question about whether Patriots owner Robert Kraft was still close with President Donald Trump, the fact Kraft had dinner with him this week should end such speculation.
A team owner in a league that is 70 percent black being so publicly close to a president who has a well-chronicled history of insensitive remarks toward people of color is, well, eye-opening.
Kraft isn’t the only NFL owner to consider Trump a friend. But he is among the most high-profile. And in a league in which many players have gone public about their dislike of the president, a warm relationship between any owner and the Oval Office at this time isn’t likely to go unnoticed.
Watch this closely.
8. From bad to worse
Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Kendrick Norton was in a car crash this month that ended his NFL career. If that wasn’t bad enough, what happened next seems truly unbelievable.
Norton has a GoFundMe page to help him and his family financially without another source of income at this time.
The fact that a player has to do this is incredible.
The NFL is a billion-dollar league with remarkable resources. And while the league told Norton it would pick up all of his medical expenses, it should be embarrassed that Norton’s financial future is in limbo.
This is one of the NFL’s own. And yes, the crash wasn’t football-related. But if the league isn’t willing to take care of its players in times of dire need, then does it care about anything meaningful?
I’d guess the Dolphins, the league or the union ultimately will take steps to help Norton financially.
At least, that’s what should happen.
9. Living large
Cris Collinsworth @CollinsworthPFF
I’m not sure why I found this so entertaining. Those of you who follow this outstanding piece of weekly work know I like weird stuff, and this certainly qualifies.
NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth…on a yacht…saying something about Game of Thrones.
10. Eight weeks
The NFL will be back in eight more Sundays.
Football is close. I can smell it.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.