Patriots reward Gronk

NFL Notes

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — For the second straight year, the Patriots have tried to show Rob Gronkowski how much he’s valued.

The All-Pro tight end says he’s feeling the love and is looking forward to showing them his appreciation on the field.

Last week the Patriots added $4.3 million in incentives to Gronkowski’s contract over the next two seasons. The deal includes $1 million in per game bonuses and $3.3 million in incentives for catches, playing time and touchdowns.

It is the second consecutive season the team has added sweeteners to the 29-year-old’s contract. Last season the incentives New England gave him pushed his compensation to more than $10 million.

With this latest restructured deal he has the potential to make $12.3 million this season and $13.3 million next year. It could again place him among the league’s highest-paid tight ends as he prepares to open his ninth NFL season Sunday against Houston.

“It’s definitely a relief to have that all out of the way,” Gronkowski said Tuesday. “That was last week. That’s in the past, which is good. I’m just gonna put my main focus on the Houston Texans.”

This new pact comes after Gronk made a silent statement by skipping the voluntary portion of offseason workouts.

When he returned for the mandatory minicamp he wasn’t bashful in saying he’d like to see his contract redone again on the heels of other NFL players getting offseason raises.

Gronk insisted that there was never any acrimony between himself and the Patriots this summer over his contract.

“It didn’t weigh on me at all,” he said. “I mean, everything is always ‘in the works.’ Nothing is just gonna happen in a day when it’s something like that. It’s in the past. … It’s go-time now.”

Deal prompts debate

An endorsement deal between Nike and Colin Kaepernick prompted a flood of debate Tuesday as sports fans reacted to the apparel giant backing an athlete known mainly for starting a wave of protests among NFL players of police brutality, racial inequality and other social issues.

The deal unveiled by Nike and the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback was a trending topic on Twitter and other social networks, with some fans urging a boycott of the company’s clothes and sneakers — even burning and cutting out the signature swoosh logos on their gear.

Others pushed back, saying the backlash against Nike showed the polarizing debate has morphed well beyond whether NFL players should be allowed to demonstrate for social causes while the national anthem plays in stadiums before games.

The league itself weighed in Tuesday afternoon with an executive saying the social issues Kaepernick has raised are valid.

“We embrace the role and responsibility of everyone involved with this game to promote meaningful, positive change in our communities,” said Jocelyn Moore, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications and public affairs. “The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action.”

Moore’s statement was paired with a detailed breakdown of things players and league executives have done together to learn about and address social issues, including community meetings, lobbying and financially supporting local programs.

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