Former NFL Tight End Mark Bavaro Weighs in on Rob Gronkowski's Return

Rob Bradford
May 02, 2020 - 10:35 am

Mark Bavaro has a unique perspective on Rob Gronkowski's current situation.

Like Gronkowski, Bavaro missed an entire season (due to a knee injury) before coming back with a new team. And also as is the case with the current Buccaneers' tight end he knows what it is like to play for Bill Belichick, who served as an assistant during Bavaro's six seasons with the Giants before bringing serving as the player's head coach in Cleveland.

So when Bavaro was asked about Gronkowski when appearing on OMF with Christian Fauria, Glenn Ordway and Lou Merloni Friday, he offered some interesting takes on one of the NFL's most talked-about players.

Of particular note was Bavaro's response when asked if he could understand a player being worn down by Belichick's coaching style.

"Absolutely, without a doubt," the Hall-of-Famer said. "It's not so much Belichick. I say that about Bill Parcells all the time. Bill Parcells was great to play for but I don't know if I could have kept up that pace under him. It was just so demanding. And Bill Belichick is from the same school. There's not a lot of wiggle room for older guys with those two coaches. They expect and demand a lot from their players. There's not a whole lot of fun going on on those teams but there is a lot of winning and that makes it worth it and that makes it great for a short while."

Bavaro also explained some of the challenges Gronkowski might have picking things back up after a year away from the game.

For the former St. John's Prep star, he resurfaced with Belichick's Browns after sitting out the 1991 season. Bavaro would go on to play 16 games with Cleveland in 1992 before moving on to Philadelphia where he also played a full slate of contests in 1993 with the Eagles. The following year would be his last.

"For me, it was, yes," said Bavaro when asked if it was difficult at first to jump back into regular-season action after his hiatus. "I had the absolute worse game of my life from Pop Warner up to the pros. I never felt more out of place, that I didn't belong. Second-guessing myself. Making a fool of myself. And this was after four preseason games when I felt pretty comfortable. ... I was just not prepared. But I came back pretty quickly. The next week I got a lot better. It didn't take long. But that first game might be a little bit of a shocker for him. He will get over it. It might not be."

Bavaro also defined who he believes is the best of the best at his position these days, making an interesting classification when it comes to some of the tight ends perceived as the game's best.

"I don't disrespect any of these great tight ends in the past, but I try to make the distinction between a receiving tight end and an all-around tight end," he said. "In my book, (Travis) Kelce is a great player but he is a receiver. I don't consider him a tight end. Same with (Tony) Gonzalez. Same with (Antonio) Gates. (Ozzie) Newsome. Kellen  Winslow, the dad. To me, the best tight end in the game right now is George Kittle, without question. I would have made the argument even last year that he was the best complete all-around tight end. Just watch the guy. He's really a joy to watch. He's more the kind of the way I played, maybe a little better. But Gronkowski is a whole different animal than any of them just by sheer physicality. The guy is 6-foot-7. His reach is unbelievable. His weight is irrelevant. He doesn't even have to run a route. He just needs to turn around and a guy like Brady can get the ball to a place no one else can touch it but Gronk. He's just a special physical type of player, just from sheer size. He's a great blocker and I definitely put him in the all-around category. I do make distinctions between receiving tight ends and all-around tight ends and Gronk is up there with the best of the best."

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