Chris Gronkowski, a rookie fullback out of Arizona, is hoping to be on the team when the Dallas Cowboys host the New Orleans Saints. Three hours earlier, and nearly 1,200 miles to the northeast, the Detroit Lions will host the New England Patriots, and the Gronkowski family will be focused on that game, as well — Chris's brothers, Dan and Rob, are tight ends for the Lions and Patriots, respectively.
"No idea," Chris Gronkowski said when asked how his friends and family are going to handle the holiday and the family representation at each game. "I've got to make this team first."
He's absolutely right, of course. Making the roster is not an impossibility, but it's far from a sure thing, which is to be expected for an undrafted free agent.
During his senior season, NFL scouts flocked to Tucson to check out Gronkowski — Rob Gronkowski, who was widely regarded as the second-best tight end in the draft despite missing the entire 2009 UA season with an injury. But while there, they also saw Chris, an H-back in the Arizona offense who showed the athleticism, blocking and physical play that several teams sought his serves after the draft.
He wasn't thrown to often at Arizona — Gronkowski had just eight catches as a senior — but he averaged 24.8 yards per catch, and found the end zone three times. As the NFL Draft reached its later rounds, Gronkowski's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, began fielding calls from several teams. The Kansas City Chiefs, the Carolina Panthers, the St. Louis Rams and the Jacksonville Jaguars all tried to get Gronkowski to sign with them before he ended up accepting the Dallas offer.
With the Cowboys, Gronkowski's position is fullback, rather than the H-back he played at Arizona, but the position requires him to perform some of the same tasks: block to protect the quarterback and open running lanes, go in motion to present varied looks to defenses and catch the occasional pass.
Wouldn't hurt if he's ready to play on special teams, too, which Gronkowski said he is eager to do.
"I'm ready to do whatever they ask me to do, and I assume that means special teams, too," Gronkowski said. "I think that's pretty normal for fullbacks, though — playing on special teams in addition to on offense. We have to be pretty versatile, and I like to think I am."
Gronkowski has spent the team's mini-camps and OTAs trying to absorb the Dallas offense and impress the coaches, to convince them he deserves a roster spot. He said that while the terminology is different from what was used at Arizona, many of the concepts are the same, which allowed him pick things up fairly quickly … which did not go unnoticed by running backs coach Skip Peete.
"I'm really comfortable so far," Gronkowski said. "Everything is pretty similar to what we did at Arizona. There are some different names, and things like that, but a lot of it looks like it will be pretty similar.
"Coach Peete even told me, ‘it looks like you've been doing this a while.' That's got to be a good sign, right?"
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