January 31, 2019 at 7:21 am #17210
Rob Gronkowski gets to play in this year’s Super Bowl after missing last year’s game with a bad back. Zach Ertz gets the chance to match his wife [url=http://www.ramsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-john-kelly-jersey]http://www.ramsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-john-kelly-jersey[/url] , Julie , a soccer star who’s already won a world championship.
Super Bowl 52 could come down to which of these terrific tight ends shines brighter.
The two had similar statistics and impact on their team’s fortunes this season.
Gronkowski led the New England Patriots with 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.
Ertz led the Philadelphia Eagles with 74 catches for 824 yards and eight TDs – double his previous career best.
Ertz also has 11 grabs for 125 yards in the playoffs and Gronkowski has seven catches for 102 yards and a touchdown in the playoffs despite missing most of the AFC championship against Jacksonville after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit from Barry Church before halftime.
That led to concerns Gronkowski might miss his second straight Super Bowl. He was sidelined for last year’s 34-28 overtime win against Atlanta after undergoing back surgery.
Gronk, however, returned to practice Thursday and said he is ”ready to roll” after clearing the concussion protocol.
He said he never doubted he’d get to play Sunday.
”There was no reason to get frustrated,” Gronkowski said. ”We had that extra week, which was awesome.”
The return of the All-Pro tight end gives Tom Brady another key option against a punishing Eagles defense that ranked fourth in the league.
”He’s a dynamic player. He means a ton to our offense. He really has since he got to our team. It’s always great when he’s out there,” Brady said.
”I’ve played with him a long time, I’ve thrown him a lot of footballs. He knows exactly what to do, he knows where to expect the ball, when to expect it. He’s just a tremendous player for our team.”
Ertz is just as important to Nick Foles and the Eagles’ offense.
The fifth-year pro made his first Pro Bowl this season, leading all NFC tight ends in receptions. He added eight catches for 93 yards in the NFC championship game against Minnesota.
Despite his breakout season and postseason, Ertz knows he won’t be the best tight end on the field Sunday. Gronkowski led all NFL tight ends in receiving yards for the fourth time.
Gronk is the gold standard.
”He’s a beast after the catch, I think that kind of separates him from all the other tight ends,” Ertz said. ”And he’s also able to be open even when he’s not open because he’s got such a big frame and extremely good ball skills. And obviously Tom Brady is a phenomenal quarterback, too, but even without Tom, I think he would still be doing the same type of things regardless of where he was.”
Ertz knows the numbers off the top of his head, too.
”He has all the (single season) tight end records in the league [url=http://www.officialblackhawksproshop.com/authentic-adidas-anthony-duclair-jersey]Anthony Duclair Jersey[/url] ,” Ertz said. He’s got the yards – 1,327 – and he’s got the touchdowns – 17 – he’s just a phenomenal player.”
With a pair of Super Bowl rings.
That’s what Ertz really covets, a world championship like the one his wife won in 2015 as a midfielder for the World Cup-winning U.S. national soccer team.
”Julie won a World Cup two years ago,” Ertz said, ”so I need to hold up my end of the bargain.”
The ”It” couple in the NFL was married last March after a romance that started when Julie, then Julie Johnston, was an emerging soccer star at Santa Clara and Zach was playing at Stanford.
The two were apart when the Eagles clinched their spot in the Super Bowl with a 38-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. Julie was in San Diego for a national team match against Denmark. She was among the players who scored in the 5-1 victory.
Afterward, when she was told Zach was going to the Super Bowl, she burst into tears .
”Zach knew I was there obviously in spirit and I was praying for him and I was excited for him and cheering him from miles away,” she said.
”It’s a part of our job and we sacrifice a lot, and time’s the biggest thing. But to find out that they are going to the Super Bowl was amazing, exciting, emotional. It’s really cool to see your loved one’s hard work pay off.”
Ertz said it was hard for him watching other players’ celebrate with their wives ”but seeing that video kind of showed me that she was struggling not being there, too.
”And it was extremely difficult for us not being together like it is anytime we’re not together. But she’s here now, I’m lucky she’s here. I’m blessed that she’s here and I’m excited hopefully to be able to experience that again.”
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers wants to take the same path as Tom Brady, still flinging footballs and chasing championships at age 40.
He knows he might have to leave Green Bay to do that.
The 34-year-old acknowledged Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press that he may have to play for another team like Brett Favre did at the end of his Hall-of-Fame career.
Rodgers said he doesn’t think Favre ever fathomed leaving Green Bay before the Packers dealt him in 2008 to the Jets to make room for Rodgers. Favre finished his career in Minnesota.
”I think you have to be humble enough to realize if it could happen to Brett, it can happen to you,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers also said in an interview with ESPN Radio on Thursday that he was caught off-guard when the Packers chose not to retain his position coach, Alex Van Pelt [url=http://www.officialwild.com/authentic-adidas-jared-spurgeon-jersey]Jared Spurgeon Jersey[/url] , last month.
The notion that Rodgers, who has two years left on his contract, could also leave Green Bay before retirement like Favre did is sure to send shivers through Wisconsin.
Sort of like Anthony Barr did when he drove the two-time MVP into the turf in October, fracturing Rodgers’ right collarbone and ultimately extinguishing the Packers’ eight-year playoff run.
Rodgers said the injury was actually harder on his psyche than his shoulder.
”The physical pain was significant. Having a displaced fracture, it’s not easy, especially being a side sleeper. I had to sleep on my back for months. It’s tough. Any side sleeper can appreciate that,” Rodgers said. ”But mentally, it’s tougher, just kind of being there every day to be the kind of leader I want to be.”
Rodgers said he’ll be ready to resume that role when the Packers begin their offseason program.
”Yeah, it’s going really good. I feel great,” he said. ”Obviously, I came back to play, got banged up a little bit. But I’m doing everything I want to do, which at this time of the year is really working out and playing golf.”
And being Aaron Rodgers, celebrity QB.
He spoke to The AP on Thursday while sitting in the green room at ”The Dan Patrick Show.” He’ll host a VIP party for members of Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guests loyalty programs Friday night. Then, he’ll attend the NFL Honors on Saturday night and catch a red-eye so he can shoot a commercial Sunday ”that hopefully gets done in time for me to watch the game.”
He’s also keeping watch on the quarterback commotion shaking up the league with Alex Smith headed to Washington and Kirk Cousins headed for who knows how many millions along with Drew Brees and Jimmy Garoppolo .
Rodgers said he was especially intrigued by the Chiefs’ decision to trade away Smith, who was coming off the best season of his 13-year career.
”There’s always some things happening that make you scratch your head a little bit, that are surprising. Alex, for whatever reason [url=http://www.washingtoncapitalsteamshop.com/authentic-riley-sutter-jersey]Riley Sutter Capitals Jersey[/url] , I think he has for most of his career been a very under-rated player,” Rodgers said.
Maybe that’s because the two been constantly compared to each other ever since the 49ers chose Smith over Rodgers with the first overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft and Rodgers slid all the way to No. 24 before Green Bay grabbed him.
”He gets this rap that’s unfortunately kind of a bad rap as a `game manager,”’ Rodgers said. ”He led the league in passer rating. He takes care of the football. He had another great year. He’s a phenomenal player. He’s a great leader. We’re the same age, same draft class. He still runs around all over the place, runs for a ton of yards every year.
”What they were doing on offense was because of his flexibility and ability to run the option or do read-option stuff,” Rodgers added, ”I think Washington is getting a phenomenal player, a great leader. Now you’ve got Kirk Cousins, what’s going to happen with him? You’ve got probably five guys that are going to get drafted in the first round, Jimmy Garoppolo and his situation. There’s a lot of moving pieces.”
Then, there’s Brady, the mainstay who’s seeking his sixth Super Bowl championship Sunday when Patriots play the Eagles.
”It’s ridiculous. We’ve been to one. This is his eighth in 17 years,” marveled Rodgers. ”It’s kind of standard operating procedure around there.”
Rodgers can envision himself putting off retirement as long as possible just like Brady.
”Oh, I’d like to definitely be 40 and be an NFL starter,” Rodgers said, ”and then hopefully get a few more after that if I’m still healthy, and more importantly, as passionate about it as I am today.”
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