Tue Jan 22 7:32pm ET
By KYLE HIGHTOWER
AP Sports Writer
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) runs against Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller (23) during the first half of the AFC Championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) is tackled by Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Daniel Sorensen (49) during the first half of the AFC Championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Even as Rob Gronkowski turned in a vintage performance with his big grabs down the stretch in the AFC championship game, the veteran Patriots tight end also did plenty of dirty work.
Gronk the blocker? The label didn't fit in the past. But this season, one of the best receiving tight ends in NFL history and Tom Brady's longtime favorite target made some big contributions to the Patriots' rejuvenated running game.
''Whatever coaches call, whatever plays we call ... blocking, receiving, no matter what is, whatever play is called, just got to go out there and do your job,'' Gronkowski said.
It was an underwhelming season statistically for Gronkowski, who contemplated retirement after last year's Super Bowl loss. He appeared in 13 games as he fought through nagging back and ankle injuries, finishing with 47 catches for 682 yards and three touchdowns.
But Gronk did more of the things that don't appear on the stat sheet. And he's fine with that as he heads into a Super Bowl matchup with the Rams eyeing the third ring in his nine-year career.
Brady said Gronkowski's ability as a blocker might be the most underrated part of his game.
''He's one of the most dominant blocking tight ends in the league,'' Brady said. ''He's a threat any time he's out there.''
One of his biggest plays in the Patriots' overtime victory over Kansas City for the AFC title came in the run game.
After the Chiefs took their first lead, New England responded with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Gronkowski pushing aside Kansas City linebacker Justin Houston on fourth-and-inches and allowing Sony Michel to jog into the end zone from 10 yards out.
Gronk's future beyond this season is once again an open question. He will be entering the final season of a six-year contract in 2019 and is scheduled to make about $9 million. Before the season, he acknowledged he would like to rework the deal, and he skipped a voluntary offseason workout. He later had bonus incentives added to his contract.
He'd be missed if he doesn't return. After a quiet performance in the Patriots' divisional playoff win over the Chargers, Gronkowski was targeted a season-high 11 times against the Chiefs, catching six passes for 79 yards and coming up with big grabs down the stretch.
Brady was 5 for 5 on third down in the fourth quarter and overtime, with two of those passes going to Gronkowski. Those catches, for 25 and 15 yards, set up the go-ahead and game-winning touchdowns.
It was nothing new for the 29-year-old Gronk, who entered the season with 75 postseason receptions - the most by a tight end in NFL history. In the regular season, he has the most TD catches thrown by Brady to any player (78).
The Rams' defense was the second-worst in the league this season, giving up 1,075 yards receiving to opposing tight ends. It should mean plenty of opportunities for Gronkowski to show the combination of size, strong hands and agility that has made him a matchup nightmare throughout his career.
His chemistry with Brady means he knows the ball could always come his way, no matter what kind of game he's having.
''You've got to have confidence in each other,'' Gronkowski said. ''That's what practice is all about. That's knowing each other is all about. Knowing that when it comes to those situations and you've got to put that ball up, I've got to make the play. ... That's the trust that we have with each other. We love playing with each other. Just a bond we have, to go out there and always be on the same page.''
Buffalo Bills rookie tight end Dawson Knox showed some promising potential at spring practices and could be in line for some serious playing time to open the season. Knox was a third round pick by the Bills out of Ole Miss. His path towards playing time this year became a lot more clear when Tyler Kroft broke his foot in May. Knox caught just 15 passes his junior year at Ole Miss in 2018, but averaged an impressive 18.9 yards-per-catch. Kroft opened camp on the PUP list and will likely miss time to start the season. Knox, meanwhile, will be competing with Jason Croom, Lee Smith and fellow rookie Tommy Sweeney for the top tight end spot on the team.
The Athletics Matt Barrows expects San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman to lead the charge in 2019. Having formerly worked with head coach Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta, Colemans incumbent role shouldnt be a surprise after his signing this offseason. The dual-threat Coleman tallied 1,076 scrimmage yards and nine touchdowns in 199 touches last season but was a relative disappointment when handed the opportunity to be the lead dog. In San Francisco, hell compete with Jerick McKinnon (knee) returning from a torn ACL and Matt Breida, amongst others for snaps. Based on his history and the personnel, its conceivable Coleman wont work as a typical lead back as each players skillset is optimized. Considering the clogged playing situation, the Niners running backs are fairly bunched in RotoBallers rankings at 29th (Coleman), 32nd (McKinnon) and 40th (Breida).
The Buffalo Bills placed running back Frank Gore on the Non-Football Injury list to start training camp. The injury is considered to be minor and the team doesn't expect him to miss much time. Gore is 36 years old so the last thing you want to hear coupled with his name is the word "injury" at this point as even something minor could really hamper him going forward. With a crowded Bills' backfield led by LeSean McCoy and also including T.J. Yeldon and rookie Devin Singletary, Gore doesn't present much fantasy intrigue at this point.
Dallas Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones (hip) and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (shoulder) were both placed on the Active/PUP list. Neither player is expected to do much if anything during Cowboys training camp, but as of right now both players are fully expected to be ready for Week 1 against the New York Giants. Both are key pieces of the Dallas defense, and Jones is entering his contract year.
Dallas Cowboys center Travis Frederick will not need to be placed on the Active/PUP list to begin training camp. Frederick missed all of the 2018 season because of Guillain-Barre Syndrome but is now "ready to go" according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. The Dallas offensive line took a noticeable step back without Frederick anchoring the middle of it, so his presence should be a boost for the entire Cowboys offense, but especially for running back Ezekiel Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (ankle) didn't participate in the team's offseason team activities, but Kelce is expected to be a full go for training camp. Kelce has three-straight 1000 yard receiving seasons to his name and caught 10 touchdowns last year in Kansas City's prolific offense. He's set to be the first tight end off the board in all fantasy drafts this year, and for now it appears that the ankle injury shouldn't factor into any fantasy decisions that you make.
Seattle Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner is expected to show up for training camp on time Wednesday, July 24, but he may not put himself 'in harm's way' until a contract extension gets done, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Ronald Darby was officially placed on the Active/PUP list. Darby playing in Week 1 still seems like a "legit possibility" according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, but it's far from a sure thing at this point. Darby has looked like a difference maker in the secondary when he's been on the field, his issue has been how rarely he is actually on the field. He's appeared in just 17 games over the past two seasons, and hasn't played since Week 10 last year. He'll be a boost to the Philly defense if he can stay healthy.
Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (ankle) reported to camp Tuesday, July 23, after he was held out of organized team activities and minicamp following offseason ankle surgery. Kelce is in camp three days early so he can get some extra work in before the rest of the team reports on Friday, July 26.
Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley (knee) wants to play the 2019 season at 218 pounds after playing most of his career around 224 pounds, according to NFL.com's Steve Wyche.
Fantasy Spin: The drop in weight - even though it is only six pounds - figures to be good for his ailing left knee. The narrative about Gurley's career being somewhat in jeopardy appears to be changing a bit as the offseason progresses, as the Rams continue to preach confidence and optimism in Gurley's health. Even though he comes with substantial risk and may be a surprise inactive from time to time, he is shaping up to be an extreme value pick for any owner lucky enough to get him in the second round of fantasy drafts.
Green Bay Packers CB Kevin King (shoulder) is expected to be active and healthy to begin training camp, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Philadelphia Eagles CB Ronald Darby (knee) is expected to start training camp on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list as he continues to recover from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. However, there is still a 'legit possibility' he will be active Week 1, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson compiled a passer rating of 113.6 against the blitz in 2018 - the third-best mark in the league for a quarterback with at least 50 pass attempts - according to Pro Football Focus.
New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees compiled a passer rating of 120.0 against the blitz in 2018 - the second-best mark in the league for a quarterback with at least 50 pass attempts - according to Pro Football Focus.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes compiled a league-best passer rating of 124.6 - minimum 50 attempts - against the blitz in 2018, per Pro Football Focus.
Free-agent CB DeShawn Shead (Lions) worked out for the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday, July 23.
Updating previous reports, free-agent WR Allen Hurns (Cowboys) was asked by the Dallas Cowboys to take a $4 million pay cut in 2019 before he declined the offer and was released Tuesday, July 23. Hurns was scheduled to make $6 million in 2019, including a $4 million base salary and $2 million in incentives, but the Cowboys wanted a restructured deal worth $2 million total with Hurns coming back from his fractured fibula/ankle suffered in the postseason.
The New York Jets have waived running back De'Angelo Henderson. After adding Le'Veon Bell and Ty Montgomery in the offseason, Henderson was always a long shot to make the team's final roster, so cutting him now allows him time to latch on somewhere else. The problem is that while Henderson was a popular dynasty sleeper pick two years ago, he's now had just 11 total touches through two seasons with two different teams. Henderson doesn't look like a guy who'll be able to earn significant snaps on a team in 2019.
The Dallas Cowboys have released wide receiver Allen Hurns, who broke his fibula in a playoff game last season. It's unclear if Hurns was going to be ready to go for the Cowboys when training camp began, but he was expected to play this season. He'll have a chance to latch on somewhere else, but it would be a stretch to expect Hurns to be a fantasy relevant player in 2019. His departure from Dallas might help Tavon Austin see the field more, but Hurns wasn't a threat to compete for snaps with Dallas' top three wideouts.
Despite starting a game for the Washington Redskins in 2018, quarterback Mark Sanchez has retired from the NFL and will move into a broadcasting role with ESPN. While Sanchez was never an elite quarterback, he did lead the Jets on some long playoff runs early in his career. He's likely still rostered in some dynasty leagues, but it's now safe to drop Sanchez in all formats.