FILE – In this June 7, 2018, file photo, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski catches the ball during an NFL football minicamp practice, in Foxborough, Mass. Those doubts are now gone as Gronkowski, “a true veteran for sure now” at 29, eagerly awaits his ninth season in the league, which starts Sept. 9 at home against the Houston Texans. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Rob Gronkowski has come a long way since doubting his NFL future following the New England Patriots’ loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl.
Gronkowski, who has battled injuries throughout his eight-year pro career, was asked about what was next for him after the 41-33 loss in Minneapolis.
“I’m definitely going to look at my future,” he said in February. “We’ll sit down in the next couple of weeks and see where I’m at.”
There was brief talk of an acting career or possibly joining professional wrestling.
It left New England fans knowing Tom Brady would be returning for his age 41 season, but not knowing if the All-Pro tight end would be there with him.
Those doubts are now gone as Gronkowski awaits his ninth season, which starts Sept. 9 at home against the Houston Texans.
“I definitely feel ready for sure, and I feel good,” Gronkowski said Tuesday.
“But it’s a long season. It’s kind of hard to describe the body. You gotta go through it in order to understand. It’s what every player — I mean, one day you can be feeling great and then the next day you just don’t how you’re are going to feel — taking hits, you could take a helmet to the thigh, you can take a helmet to the chest, wherever and your body can just react differently … and you’re feeling like garbage the next day.
“I can’t ever really get up here and ever say that I feel amazing, because you just never know and every single day, though, I prepare myself to the fullest so I can feel the best I can feel the next day.”
Gronkowski was coming off back surgery when camp began last year.
This summer, he arrived at camp without a restructured contract he was seeking. He shrugged that off Tuesday — while also acknowledging the substantial deal given to Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. — “those are great players” — and also the contract extension reportedly signed by teammate Shaq Mason on Monday.
“I’m in for the players always — I’m a player, so it’s good to see that,” he said.
Asked about tight ends being given that kind of respect, he smiled and said, “That would be pretty cool.”
As far as his own situation being resolved soon, he said, “I’m always looking for that,” but added, “It is what it is. That’s not really my focus. I’ve got a long season ahead and I’m just trying to focus on what I really need to do — let everything else play out.”
Gronkowski won’t play in the preseason finale against the New York Giants on Thursday night, but the work will continue to prepare for the regular season.
“I’ve always got stuff to work on, big-time, no matter what it is,” he said. “Route running, route detail, blocking … but I felt like it was a good camp overall. We got a lot of conditioning in, a lot of reps in, the passing game, the run game, whatever it is. Now we’ll just focus on keep on going to the next level, keep on getting in better shape … gotta keep grinding.
“It’s good to be out there every day, get the work in, get the body adjusted.”
Gronkowski feels good heading into the season with the Patriots favored to maintain their dominance in the AFC East and make another run to the Super Bowl.
“I just love playing the game,” he said. “I feel good right now. I definitely feel like a hundred times better than I did last year during training camp.
“When you’re feeling good you love playing the game and I feel good enough to where I thought I could come back, go throughout the whole season, go throughout camp and just keep playing the game and enjoying it.
“That’s how it’s been — when you’re enjoying the game, when you’re feeling good, you just love playing the game. It’s just something where when you’re out on the field, your mind’s just in another place because you’re just focusing on what you gotta do.”

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