As Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski recovered from rib injuries amid four missed games, he remained largely silent about the team until longtime teammate Tom Brady’s 600th touchdown saga unfolded.
Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans caught the touchdown and gave it to Bucs fan Byron Kennedy, who became well-known this week for returning the ball after negotiation with a team staff member. Gronkowski, who caught more than 80 of Brady’s touchdowns, thanked Kennedy humorously on Twitter.
“Thank you for giving Tommy his ball back. He was worried he doesn’t have enough TD balls,” Gronkowski wrote.
Gronkowski also retweeted his repayment to Kennedy. The four-time All-Pro and pro wrestler Mojo Muhtadi will give Kennedy $30,000 of cryptocurrency per TMZ Sports.
Kennedy received significant compensation from the Bucs and Brady before that. The list includes season tickets, $1,000 to the team store, signed jerseys, a helmet, cleats, and a bitcoin with around $63,000.
“I think I did the right thing,” Kennedy told TMZ Sports. “I’m happy Tom has it.”
“It’s all working out pretty well,” Kennedy added.
Gronkowski Practicing Again
Gronkowski practiced Wednesday and Thursday this week as remains listed as questionable for Sunday’s game with the New Orleans Saints per ESPN.com.
Greg Auman of The Athletic reported that Gronkowski and linebacker Lavonte David “look promising for Sunday” amid practicing on Thursday. Cornerback Richard Sherman also practiced in pads on Thursday per Auman.
Pewter Report caught photos of Gronkowski at practice in addition to David, Sherman, and defensive end Ndamukong Suh. The team practiced inside at the AdventHealth Training Center due to weather.
Rib injuries and a punctured sidelined Gronkowski since a Week 3 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Gronkowski had a strong season going before that with 16 catches, 184 yards, and four touchdowns — most of it coming in the first two games.
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians sounded hopeful after Wednesday’s practice regarding Gronkowski, David, and Sherman.
“It was great,” Arians said per Knight. “They looked good, and obviously the guys that stepped in did a hell of a job, so now they’ve got to live up to their standard.”
Arians had a more direct comment on Gronkowski’s status for the New Orleans game on Monday.
“I would hope that Gronk could be ready to go,” Arians said per Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio.
Bucs Tight Ends Finding a Way Without Gronkowski
Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard haven’t dominated without Gronkowski, but they’ve made plays over the past four weeks.
Howard had the biggest performance in a Week 6 game at Philadelphia with six receptions, 49 yards, and a touchdown. Things started slow for him this season otherwise in coming back from an Achilles injury from last year.
“He was scratching the surface,” Arians said after the game per ABC Action News’ Kyle Burger. “He was coming on like gangbusters when he got hurt. That’s a hard injury to get over. It’s a 12-month job. He’s doing a heck of a job right now.”
Brate also made some catches, in addition to blocking, in Gronkowski’s absence with 67 yards on six receptions since Week 3. He didn’t make any catches on four targets in the blowout win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
“We’re going to be getting ‘Gronk’ back here at some point,” Brate told the media on Wednesday. “Sure, our opportunities will go down a little bit once Gronk is back, which we’re okay with that. Seeing some targets for the best tight end of all time — we’re cool with that.”