B/R Interview: Rob Gronkowski Talks Return from Injury, My Cause My Cleats, More

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 1, 2021

Photo Credit: USAA

Good news, Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans. 

It's officially "go time" for Rob Gronkowski.

The five-time Pro Bowler had his best game of the season yardage-wise during Sunday's 38-31 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. He tallied seven catches for 123 yards while running over defenders and finding open seams across the middle in an impressive performance that was all the more notable because it was his second game back from injury.

"I feel good," Gronkowski told Bleacher Report in an exclusive interview. "I've got two games under my belt. I've got a couple practices under my belt. I feel good. There's no excuses with how I'm feeling. It's go time when I step out on the field. No matter what percent you are, when you're on the field, you've got to just be 100 percent go for those plays."

This season has been something of a roller coaster from an individual perspective.

While it was fair to wonder about his level of production coming into the campaign since he is 32 years old and playing in an offense with an overwhelming number of weapons with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Leonard Fournette, he found immediate success with two touchdowns in each of the first two games against the Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons.

However, Gronkowski suffered four cracked ribs, one broken rib and a punctured lung during the third game against the Los Angeles Rams and then exited with back spasms when he returned in Week 8 against the New Orleans Saints.

Yet he was his dominant self once again during the win over the Colts, which he attributed partly to his preparedness even in a loaded offense.

"Some weeks I can be feeling great and running around great, but the coverages just don't go my way and someone else can have a great game," Gronkowski said. "You never know who's going to make all the plays. Someone may get all the touchdowns that week, and someone may get all the yardage that week. But you've always just got to be ready to perform because you never know when the ball is going to come your way. This week it just so happened to be myself."


Having a vintage Gronk day. #GoBucs @RobGronkowski 📺: #TBvsIND on FOX 📱: NFL app https://t.co/v677GlbZCG

Of course, it isn't much of a surprise when the ball just so happens to find arguably the greatest tight end in NFL history.

Gronkowski's resume includes four Super Bowl titles, four All-Pro selections, five Pro Bowl nods, four seasons with more than 1,000 receiving yards and five seasons with double-digit touchdown catches, including when he led the league with 17 in 2011.

A common denominator for much of the success is Tom Brady, who had the future Hall of Fame tight end as a go-to weapon for three of his six Super Bowl titles with the New England Patriots as they helped build a modern-day dynasty the likes of which the league has never seen.

Gronkowski retired after the pair's third championship together during the 2018 campaign only to come back in 2020 to join Brady again and win another with the Buccaneers.

"He's a guy you trust in any situation, from the beginning of the game to the end of the game to the final seconds," he said of Brady as they gear up for another potential run at the Lombardi Trophy. "He's a guy you put your full go on the line for. That's why we're all in it, to help each other out and help the man next to us. Having him in the huddle definitely gets you to that level of bringing your A-game every time you step out on the field."

It was clear Brady trusted Gronkowski in the biggest situations as well considering he turned to his reliable tight end for two touchdown catches in the Super Bowl win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

They will face the team they defeated in Super Bowl LI when they take the field Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, but the game won't be the only thing that takes center stage.

Gronkowski will participate in the NFL's My Cause My Cleats program that allows players to advocate for causes on their custom-designed cleats. He partnered with USAA to honor both the USO and his Gronk Nation Youth Foundation with his cleats that will feature a picture of the Jasen family, which is a military family he had the opportunity to meet earlier this year.

"It's important to me to use the My Cause My Cleats platform because I want to share all the great work the USO does to support our military families and how it's important for us to support our military families and veterans," Gronkowski said while also stressing his desire to honor the military because "they give us the freedom that we have in this country."

Rob Gronkowski @RobGronkowski

Sacrifice & Service is what these cleats represent. It’s a privilege to honor @the_USO and the Jasen family. Thanks to @USAA for helping me honor service members & The USO for keeping America’s service members connected to family, home,& country. #MyCauseMyCleats #SaluteToService https://t.co/fbvz8BUt6S

Marcus Rivero, who is better known as Soles by Sir, designed the cleats that will also have pictures of the USO and Gronk Nation Youth Foundation logos with a camouflage background.

"My man, Marcus Rivero, he actually designed my cleats and painted them," Gronkowski said while pointing out his size 16 made it easier to fit multiple causes on the shoes. "It's pretty impressive the amount of time and work that goes into the design and how much detail there is. It's pretty crazy that they can even draw those types of designs on the cleats and paint them like that."

The Gronk Nation Youth Foundation strives to help children in sports, education, fitness and their communities through grants, appearances and the utilization of nonprofit organizations.

His cleats will raise awareness for notable causes off the field, but his attention remains on another Super Bowl pursuit with the 8-3 Buccaneers on it.

Being a defending champion is nothing new for Gronkowski, and he knows that means getting the opponent's best shot on a weekly basis as the season enters the stretch run.

"There's always a target on our back, especially winning it all last year," he said. "I feel like we get everyone's A-game week in and week out. So we've just got to be prepared and find a way every single week to step it up a notch. Win or lose, you've got to find ways to get better daily. You're not going to see huge jumps of getting better during the season, but week in and week out you've got to find ways to make that little jump and make that little improvement to keep getting better throughout the year."

Winning back-to-back titles is about the only thing he didn't do during his time with the Patriots even though they reached three consecutive Super Bowls and won two of them from 2016 to 2018.

If he plays like he did Sunday and Tampa Bay continues to make those small improvements on a weekly basis, Gronkowski could be primed to change that this season.