FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- There are multiple ways to view the news tight end Rob Gronkowski won't attend the start of the New England Patriots' voluntary offseason program Monday. Here's a look at the possibilities:
Statement decision: Gronkowski has a $250,000 workout bonus in his contract, which would be paid out for attending 90 percent of the sessions. By not being there on Day 1, he is making a statement there are larger issues on his mind that potentially trump earning a workout bonus. Those issues could be related to the physical pain he has endured over his career as he questions whether to continue playing, or they could be related to his contract. Last year, the Patriots sweetened his contract with incentives, but the 2018 and 2019 portions of his contract were not adjusted. Gronkowski is scheduled to earn a base salary of $8 million this season. When a player wants to make a "peaceful" statement over displeasure of a contract, staying away from voluntary workouts is sometimes his choice because he can't be fined but still sends a "message." The sides have discussed the contract this year, as reported by Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald. Also, such a statement could be tied to how strongly Gronkowski feels working with trainer Alex Guerrero at the TB12 Sports Therapy Center.
No big deal: Gronkowski could very well show up on Tuesday, making this a one-day story. Or perhaps he doesn't show up at all for voluntary workouts, and if that's the case, he still wouldn't be the first player to take that route in New England. Last week, first-year Titans coach Mike Vrabel relayed to the media in Tennessee that there were years he didn't attend voluntary workouts because of different things happening in his life (such as family considerations with children). Vrabel has been a two-time finalist for the Patriots Hall of Fame, and it didn't seem to affect his career. If Gronkowski elects to do that, the next key date to watch would be early June for the team's mandatory minicamp. That would be the time to truly have concern about Gronkowski if he doesn't show up.
Cause for concern: The Patriots are turning the page to 2018, and they won't have two of their offensive captains (Gronkowski and quarterback Tom Brady) in attendance on the day sometimes described by players as having a "first day of school" type of feel. Furthermore, the offseason program is a time to build chemistry with new teammates, and newcomers often are told to take a cue from the leaders of the team. It's hard to do that, however, when those leaders aren't present. This decision seems to be out of character for Gronkowski, who is believed to have cashed in on all his workout bonuses to this point in his career.
My take: Like many things in professional football, this isn't a black-and-white situation, and I pull from each of the three categories when putting my thoughts together on the topic. I view this as a "peaceful statement" related to his contract (and perhaps his work with Alex Guerrero) and don't think it's a major deal because I believe Gronkowski will be playing for the Patriots in 2018, but I also think it can't be dismissed as insignificant based on Gronkowski's past history and his standing as one of the team's leaders.