Their climb to 90 career regular season touchdown connections started off relatively rough in 2010 when they played for the New England Patriots. At least for Gronkowski, who told the media on Dec. 8 that it challenged him as a rookie tight end to grow from just running for a catch to honing the fine details of becoming an elite NFL pass catcher.
“Yeah, he was. He was a meanie — meanie pants,” Gronkowski said with a laugh during a Dec. 8 press conference. “But it was basically just to get me on the same page. I think he saw that potential that I had and just get me going and everything. Get on the same communication, the same wavelength, so we can make some plays.”
Brady didn’t minimize Gronkowski’s rookie memories, either.
“It was intentional. I had to try to toughen him up a little bit,” the Bucs quarterback said on Dec. 9. “I’ve got to see what I’m working with, you know? Kids have it so easy these days. We’ve got to try to challenge them a little bit.”
Gronkowski caught 42 passes for 546 yards and 10 touchdowns from Brady in 2010, but Gronkowski said the chemistry took a while to develop.
“At the beginning, we were up and down,” Gronkowski said. “It was basically kind of like I was up and down because he knew what he wanted out of me, and I didn’t totally understand everything.”
“By the end of my rookie year, we had that connection going,” Gronkowski said. “And we followed up with it big time in the offseason after my first year, and then from there on out, my second year in the league, we were kind of on the same page from there on out and just working out, year in and year out.”
Brady’s respect for Gronkowski only grew.
“He’s obviously the greatest tight end ever to play the game and he’s still doing it,” Brady said. “Again, I think his ability to block in the run game, run routes in the pass game, going against smaller players, and then he’s very clutch. He comes up big in the biggest moments.”
Brady: ‘He Knows What I’m Thinking’
Brady’s work with Gronkowski in 2010 launched the second-greatest quarterback-receiver touchdown duo of all time in terms of stats. Only former Indianapolis Colts greats Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison connected for more touchdowns, 112 in the regular season.
Brady, 44, and Gronkowski, 32, haven’t slowed down with the Bucs this season. They have connected for six touchdowns in seven games together this season.
“We’ve played together — I know basically every situation that’s come up. I know how he would deal with it,” Brady said on Dec. 9. “So much about football is anticipating what the problems will be as opposed to trying to figure out how to solve the problem after the play. I think a lot of it is solving the problem before things happen. ‘Gronk’, he knows what I’m thinking, I know what he’s thinking. We’ve just done it so long together. It’s really nice. It’s a great luxury for two position players like that that have played together for as long as we have.”
Brady, Gronkowski Cast Doubt on Unretirement Story
After Brady joined the Bucs in 2020, it was speculated that he called Gronkowski to come out of retirement and join the team. That’s the story they maintained last season, which included a commercial that played off it.
Now, neither Brady nor Gronkowski confirm that’s how it happened.
“My dad’s still wondering who got me back into football,” Gronkowski said on Dec. 8. “I keep it all a guess, so then everyone just throws (out) guesses, and I just walk away like, ‘man, always keeping everyone on their toes.'”
Brady told the media on Dec. 9 he doesn’t recall “exactly how it all went down” regarding Gronkowki’s return in 2020.
“I’m just happy he decided he wanted to come out of retirement,” Brady said. “Obviously playing together with him is just awesome for me. When I chose the Buccaneers, I wasn’t sure if he was going to come out of retirement or if he wanted to play, but it’s been amazing to watch him perform.”