Patriots working out under radar
NEEDHAM, Mass. -- In typical under-the-radar New England Patriots-type fashion, a group of the team's players has been gathering daily in southeastern Massachusetts for workouts during the NFL's lockout.[+] EnlargeJoe Robbins/Getty ImagesKnowing his second season could be key to his development, Rob Gronkowski is glad to be able to work out with his teammates despite the lockout.
"We've been doing everything, but we're on the down-low," second-year tight end Rob Gronkowski said Tuesday night. "[Others teams] may go to the media, acting like they're some of the only teams doing it, but we're working hard out here too. We're just keeping it low."
So low, in fact, that Gronkowski initially declined to speak with a reporter following a charity basketball game Tuesday night. That's generally the "Patriots Way" -- say little, let actions speak loudest.
But when pressed as he exited Needham High's gymnasium after a feel-good event, the personable Gronkowski relented, acknowledging that anywhere from 10 to 15 players have been working out together in Massachusetts.
"We are intense. The workouts are insane," he relayed. "We've been getting after it hard. I feel great right now, ready to go."
Gronkowski declined to say who was regularly attending workouts, saying he didn't want to speak for teammates.
Gronkowski wouldn't reveal if quarterback Tom Brady was one of them, although a source familiar with Brady's offseason regimen said the quarterback has primarily been working out intensely on the West Coast, in part because of family considerations.
Brady has been in touch with teammates, including by email, and there is a thought that if the lockout extends deeper into the spring that some of the team's pass-catchers could head west to work with him.
Player-arranged workouts have become one of the big stories during the NFL lockout.
Sanchez' "Jets West" camp drew heavy media interest, while the Dallas Cowboys had roughly 40 players together the past two weeks. New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning has gathered some of his teammates at Hoboken (N.J.) High School over the past two weeks, while the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers also have had publicized workouts.
For the Patriots, fourth-year linebacker Jerod Mayo previously said this offseason is about which team "can beat the lockout." Mayo, not surprisingly, has been one of the primary organizers of the team's offseason workouts, according to a source.
Gronkowski wouldn't confirm that, only speaking in general terms of what the atmosphere has been like when the players get together.
"We're all leading because we're all going there for the workouts, even though we don't have to and nothing is mandatory," he said. "No one is slacking. Everyone is there working hard, pushing each other to the max, so it's cool."
For players like Gronkowski, this is viewed as a crucial offseason, as Patriots coach Bill Belichick often makes the point that players can make the biggest jump between their rookie and second season.
Gronkowski, a second-round draft choice (42nd overall), totaled 10 touchdown receptions in 2010.
"Coming in as a rookie is crazy, learning a whole new playbook, a whole new system," he said. "Now it's awesome, already going in and having the knowledge of your playbook, your teammates and the system. It's definitely a step ahead because you know what to expect from everything."
Gronkowski was out of town on the Friday that the NFL lockout was lifted and players could show up at team facilities. But now he's back and says he has no plans to be elsewhere.
"I had taken some vacation, seeing my family and my old coaches in college, and that was a lot of fun. But now I'm back here in Mass., I'm training hard, and I'm going to stay here all the way through," he said. "I'll be ready when we get the call."
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.
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