1. How Much Gronk Is Too Much Gronk?
Rob Gronkowski was at WrestleMania 33 on Sunday. (Loved the three-point stance, by the way.) He then showed up at Opening Day in Fenway Park the following day. And that was after hitting the Daytona 500 in late February. Gronk is out and about again, which raises the question of whether his antics are getting old.
The short answer is "hell no." I love what he does. He's cheery and sincere. He's fun. He also knows there isn't just life after football, there is life during football. More players need to absorb that lesson.
Still, how Gronk is having fun, like many things in the NFL (and in life), gets complicated.
First, a little background on Gronkowski few outside of New England may know. He is one of the hardest-working players in football. In practice and games, he constantly busts his ass. This is not unusual among NFL players, who regularly push their bodies and brains past human limits. But Gronk is at the high end of those players.
It's why Gronkowski has been one of the sport's more frequently injured stars. He isn't injury-prone; he just exerts maximum effort and takes a beating because of it.
What sets Gronk apart from other players is how he parties in a highly public manner. It isn't hard to find a long list of such moments.
That's great. I wish all players did this. They should be allowed to party as much as they want and be as public as they want.
However, I recently heard from four players, two from each conference, who all wondered if Gronkowski is held to a different standard than others in the league.
None wanted to be quoted, even on an off-the-record basis, but each made the point that they didn't think a player such as Cam Newton could do what Gronk does without public backlash.
Remember, a mother wrote a letter of complaint about Newton for, well, basically doing nothing more than strutting around a football field. Quarterbacks are held to a higher standard, but the players I spoke to noted Newton, in particular, could never have the kind of public life Gronkowski lives.
To be fair, Tony Romo was once criticized for going to Cabo San Lucas the week before a playoff game against the Giants. But Odell Beckham also was ripped for partying before a Giants playoff game this past season against Green Bay.
See, it's complicated.
From a pure entertainment standpoint, it's hard not to see humor in Gronk stealing Tom Brady's jersey at Red Sox Opening Day and running onto the field at Fenway to force Brady to use his 8.9-second 40-yard-dash speed to catch him.
But some players wonder whether we'd be smiling if it wasn't Gronkowski pulling the prank.
In his defense, Gronkowski doesn't get into trouble off the field, and he has rings—plural. He's also perhaps the best tight end in NFL football.
To me, he can do whatever he wants. He's a grown-ass man. As long as he doesn't end up on a police blotter, who cares?
But is this the standard to which other players would be held? It's a question that has players around the league talking.
2. The Patriots Play Chess, Not Checkers
One of the NFL's more powerful runners is LeGarrette Blount, a free agent who remains unsigned. New England wants him back—that's a fact (and not exactly a shocker).
As of now, he has yet to sign. So if you're the Patriots, how do you put pressure on Blount? How about by inviting Adrian Peterson in for a workout and letting that information trickle out to the media?
The Patriots are the most leak-proof organization in the NFL and maybe in all of sports. So how does something as big as a Peterson visit get out? Probably because Bill Belichick wanted it to.
Don't misunderstand—Peterson could sign in New England. It is the kind of move Belichick makes; he signs veteran players seemingly past their primes all the time. He did it with Randy Moss and Chad Ochocinco, among others. But it seems unlikely this would happen with Peterson, considering the critical comments Patriots ownership once made about him.
Bringing Peterson in for a visit is likely another example of Belichick playing mind games (or metagames), and I mean that in the most positive way. It's smart. It's the Patriots.
3. Looking for Gronk 2.0
Alabama tight end O.J. Howard is getting tons of second and third looks as the draft approaches because of his size and speed. He's coming along at a time when teams are looking for the next party guy, er, Gronk.
Based on things I'm hearing from front office executives and scouts, Howard is one of the more liked picks in this draft, and his stock is rising as the draft draws near.
4. There's No Interest Like Self Interest
The Cowboys owner made some pretty remarkable news at the NFL owners meetings last week in Arizona.
First, according to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, Jones told fellow owners that he wanted the NFL to stop testing for marijuana. This is something that should have happened a long time ago, particularly because nascent research shows parts of the cannabis plant could help with the treatment of CTE.
Whether it's because of self-interest or not—and it most assuredly is, since a number of Dallas players were suspended for pot use—Jones is one of only a handful of NFL owners who can make this happen.
No matter Jones' motives, if he can move the NFL on this issue, that's a good thing.
5. The Jerry Jones Show, Continued
Jones stunned in Arizona not only with his stance on marijuana, but also by telling his fellow owners that he wanted the NFL to cease investigating players' off-field conduct, per Florio.
The NFL started its own investigative wing after the Ray Rice fiasco. It's unlikely the league will end this practice. As Florio wrote: "[A] league spokesman told PFT that the NFL continues to maintain its commitment to pursuing investigations that are relevant and meaningful, and that the league office always looks to be efficient when conducting investigations."
But again, if any owner could stop it, it would be perhaps the most powerful man in sports.
6. What City Will Become the NFL's Next Poker Chip?
The NFL is running out of cities to use as chips against other locales in the eternal quest for newer, more lucrative stadiums. Many of those cities are starting to realize they're part of a large poker game, and they don't want to be a chip. In other words, the league is running out of cities to manipulate.
There remains one city, however, the league can still use: London.
Many of us around football have long predicted that the NFL wouldn't start a new franchise there, but would instead move a current team to London. It's difficult to predict these things, but the massive, rich deal the Raiders received to move to Las Vegas means the NFL is emboldened about moving another team, not creating a new one.
So there might be one last sucker, er, chip for the NFL to play. Cheerio!
7. Sports and Politics Mix Again
Many Chargers fans will know the name Mark Fabiani. He was the point man on the Chargers' stadium relocation. He was the team's chief media spinner and was usually deployed to justify the team's move to Los Angeles.
Many people will also recognize this name: Bill O'Reilly.
Welcome back to the spin zone, Chargers fans.
8. The Social Justice Movement Marches On
An increasing number of players, especially from the NFL, have demonstrated a willingness to become involved in social justice matters, even if it costs them in terms of popularity or endorsements.
In the last week, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and free-agent wide receiver Anquan Boldin testified to members of Congress about police relations with communities, according to Aaron Dodson of The Undefeated.
Not since the days of Jim Brown have NFL players, and those in other sports, spoken so much about social justice issues.
9. The High Cost of NFL Living
Another week, another reminder CTE is an issue that isn't going away. Former running back Charlie Garner, whose NFL career spanned 11 seasons with the Eagles, 49ers, Raiders and Buccaneers, told Pat Yasinskas of Sporting News, "I don't have all my faculties anymore."
Stories likes these are scary, and they continue to be almost impossible to deny.
These stories are also important, though. They keep us grounded about the dangers inherent in playing the game and remind us what exactly we're watching. It doesn't mean everyone should stop watching football, or stop loving it, or stop earning a living off of it. It means to be aware of exactly what you're watching.
10. An Amazing Comeback
Former Saints linebacker Michael Mauti lost almost 50 pounds because of an inflammatory bowel disease. Now he's on the comeback trail.
The capacity human beings possess to do amazing things continues to impress me. And Mauti's potential return to a football field is nothing if not impressive.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.