By MIKE SHALIN, Associated Press
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Rob Gronkowski says coach Bill Belichick makes it easy for the New England Patriots to ignore distractions such as the one created by last week’s ESPN report.
“Throughout my years here I’ve seen a lot of negative, a lot of positive,” Gronkowski said Tuesday as the Patriots prepared for Saturday night’s divisional playoff game against the Tennessee Titans.
“The reputation that Coach tries to get us to have is just ignore the noise — ignore the noise from the outside and I feel like that’s what myself and a lot of other players have been doing.
“You just gotta ignore the noise and just focus on what we’ve been doing all year and that’s preparing hard, studying our opponent, getting ready, mentally and physically for the big game, so what’s going on on the outside, as a team, as an organization, just gotta keep grinding, keep going, keep doing our job.”
Gronkowski, healthy this season after missing last year’s Super Bowl-winning run, said such “noise” will “if anything it’s just going to bring us closer and it’s going to bond us together.”
The report concerned the relationship among team owner Robert Kraft, Belichick and Tom Brady, focusing on Brady’s role in the trading of backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers for a second-round draft pick.
Earlier Tuesday, Brady reacted strongly to the claim he was involved in moving Garoppolo, who won five straight games for his new team down the stretch of the season.
“I think that’s just such a poor characterization of anything. In 18 years, I’ve never celebrated when someone has been traded, been cut,” Brady said on his weekly appearance on Boston radio station WEEI.
“I would say that’s disappointing to hear that someone would express that, or a writer would express that, because it’s so far from what my beliefs are about my teammates.”
He continued, saying, “I would never, ever feel that way about when Jimmy got traded, when Jacoby (Brissett) got traded. I’ve kept in touch with all those guys. When Matt Cassel was gone. All these guys I’ve worked with, I felt like I had such a great relationship with all the quarterbacks I’ve worked with. I kept in touch with basically everybody. So to characterize that as a certain way is just completely, completely wrong.”
Gronkowski was asked if Brady is amped up even more than usual.
“I’ve gotten that question many times throughout my career and I’ve said this many times — it’s hard to see him go to another level of intensity because he’s always intense, he’s always preparing hard,” Gronkowski said.
“I’ve just seen him do the same old that he does every week, prepare hard, practice hard and get ready for the game.”
Defensive captain Devin McCourty was asked about the ESPN article.
“I don’t care about it and I think a lot of guys don’t really care about what goes on outside and who writes what and if we stink, if we’re great — it doesn’t matter.
“So, I just think guys are motivated by playing for each other, their families more than an ESPN article.
“I think it’s a great thing for our fans and people outside. I think they enjoy all of that, but I think for us, it’s just going out there and playing for each other.
“An ESPN article doesn’t help us when we go out there and it’s negative-9 degrees. Like you’re not going to be motivated to prove an article wrong. You’re just having fun playing with the guys.”
Wide receiver Brandin Cooks, in his first year with the team, was asked how they keep distractions out of their locker room.
“I think because the guys listen. Coach has been doing this for a while and he knows what the potential distractions can be,” Cooks said.
“I think he does a great job on letting us know what they are and as players we listen to him and being coachable and tune out the noise.”
NOTES: Tennessee coach Mike Mularkey, talking with New England reporters via a conference call, was asked what affect the ESPN story might have on the Patriots, said, “You know what, I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know anything about it. I’m not a social media guy. I don’t know enough, I really don’t, to make any comment about something like that.” … Gronkowski, talking about making AP All-Pro for the fourth time, said, “It’s definitely an honor, a humbling honor, but it means nothing now to tell you the truth, it means nothing. It’s the playoffs now, it’s one-and-done if you lose, so you just keep on preparing, looking forward. … “I’m just looking forward to this game, man — super excited to be back out there with the team.”
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