FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Typically, only friends are allowed to refer to each other by their nicknames.
If that’s true, Gronk and Marty are quickly on their way to becoming bros.
Outside of Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski has easily been the most indispensable player on the New England Patriots’ offense, celebrated equally for his brute athleticism and one-of-a-kind personality.
But that success has come at the expense of his body at times the past few seasons as team have keyed on Brady’s favorite target.
Enter Martellus Bennett, who is still learning about life in New England since being acquired in a March trade with Chicago. At 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds, he may be the only other guy in the NFL that can match Gronk’s size (6-6, 265), skillset and freewheeling style.
Bennett arrived at training camp in the final year of the four-year, $20 million contract he signed with the Bears in 2013. He is looking for fresh start after becoming frustrated by managements unwillingness to extend him in Chicago, where made the Pro Bowl in 2014.
With a year to prove himself on a perennial competitor, the 29-year-old said Friday that his short time with the Patriots has helped to re-energize him after he missed five games last season with a rib injury.
“I really haven’t had that much football in a long time,” Bennett said. “It’s like when you break up and finally get back together with the girl you love in the first place. So it’s been great to be back out there.”
He’s having just as much fun with his new teammates — Gronkowski, in particular.
The pair has been exchanging both moves and jokes on the field since minicamp, and has been seen over the first two training camp practices working individually with Brady in drills to try to develop some chemistry.
“The primary focus is just getting everyone on the same page,” Gronkowski said. “I’ve been doing it with him for seven years now, so we kind of have the same chemistry right when we hit the field. I know where he’s going to usually put it. I know that he knows where I’m going to be, but obviously my rookie year I didn’t know that and as Marty is being kind of a rookie here, it’s cool to see everyone work together, help each other out, and just go over and get some extra work.”
Bennett is leaning on some of his past associations with big time past catchers to guide his latest transition.
“That’s really exciting because I was fortunate to play with Brandon Marshall for a long time, and I learned my game from him,” he said. “Now to be with another great player like Rob — he does so many different things well. When you watch tape you know he’s really good, but when you’re right there next to him you’re like, ‘Man this guy is really good.'”
A peek of what the pair’s combined bravado looks like is also already showing up at times.
During a drill Friday, Bennett leaped to catch a pass over Patrick Chung, and then placed the ball at Chung’s feet.
A few plays later, after Gronkowski had jawed a bit with the defense following a catch in the end zone, Dont’a Hightower slung the football at him as he jogged away.
“That’s just football. That’s just what it is,” Bennett said. “I like guys that have an edge. And I think a lot of guys on this team have an edge. When they have that edge it makes you bring it up a notch, too.”
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