Rob Gronkowski debate wearing thin

Recent sightings of Rob Gronkowski, which have included pictures at Brigham & Women’s Hospital on Monday visiting heart patient Lauren Meizo, appear to show an even leaner version of the tight end than we witnessed last season.

Of late, Gronkowski has been working out at TB12, continuing his mission with trainer Alex Guerrero. After the 28-year-old’s multitude of injuries, including a third back surgery, he last year decided he would put his faith in Tom Brady’s body coach, who focused on getting the tight end more pliable.

That process has resumed, but some are now asking if it’s possible Gronk might be getting a bit too lean for a tight end.

Typically, he plays at 265 pounds. Right now, I’m told he’s 260, but will be back up to his usual weight (if not a few pounds heavier) by the time camp rolls around. Given that scenario, there wouldn’t seem to be an issue.

Except Guerrero and his treatment of Patriots players beyond Brady is a polarizing subject in and around Patriot Place. Everything seems to be up for debate.

Plus, Gronkowski’s quest for pliability may have even stirred up some of the reported friction between Bill Belichick and his star tight end.

At one point early last season, the Hoodie chastised Gronk in front of the players for being a TB12 client, according to a source. So maybe that was Belichick’s not-so-subtle way of trying to keep everyone from jumping ship on the team’s training staff.

Former Ravens head coach Brian Billick certainly understands the dynamic and difficulties of having a star player wanting to use a coach outside of team personnel.

“Everyone wants their personal guy. And that’s probably where Gronk is right now,” said Billick, now an NFL Network analyst. “We took the approach, we let them come to the facility and let them work out with their guy. That way, we could monitor it . . . Now, it’s not comfortable. That’s asking a lot of your weight staff. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s where we are with today’s athletes.”

Billick, like Belichick, acknowledged that a head coach has to draw a line in the sand at some point, or else lose control of the locker room.

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“The problem becomes, do I let everybody in? Now I got 53 different workout guys,” he said, “so there’s a fine line to draw in bringing in outside knowledge into the building. It’s not easy.”

Billick said Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe was someone he allowed to utilize, and bring to the facility, his own personal trainer. Sharpe’s seen the pictures of a slimmer Gronkowski and has no problem with the view.

“I know he’s been with Tom Brady’s method, and it doesn’t matter if Alex Guerrero doesn’t have an MD from Harvard, or if he’s not medically trained. It doesn’t matter,” Sharpe said of Guerrero, who studied traditional Chinese medicine at Samra University in Los Angeles. “All that matters is that the guys he’s seeing believe that what he’s teaching them works. And I did see a picture of him, and he does look thinner.

“Gronk is a large, large man. So him thinner, at 6-6, 6-7, 260 pounds, so be it. But I think Gronk is going to be every bit as effective as he’s always been as long as he has Brady throwing to him. He’ll be just fine.”

Asked if there was such a thing as being too thin for a tight end, Sharpe wasn’t too worried about what Gronk weighed at the moment. He figured it would be different once he got to camp.

“For me, it’s whatever Gronk is comfortable with. I have no problem with a guy trying to gain every edge that he possibly can through his diet, his exercise, it doesn’t matter,” said Sharpe. “So he felt playing at 270-280, being as tight as he was, it was cumbersome and inhibiting his ability to stay on the field. So, he felt the need to drop weight. And he looks good from what I can see.

“I still expect him to be the Gronk that we’ve seen since Day 1 he set foot in the NFL.”

Last season, which was his first on the program, Gronkowski put together one of his finest years, amassing 69 receptions for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns. He earned All-Pro status for the fifth time while also making his fifth Pro Bowl. He missed one game due to injury, and one due to suspension.

Gronkowski believes in the program. He pretty much bragged all last season about how great he felt. The advantage of pliability for Gronk, in theory at least, is better rotation in his hips — allowing him to run better — and better mobility. A body that’s more pliable also allows Gronkowski to boast a better catch radius, and using resistance bands for strength develops functional force.

Given that, Gronk probably feels strength won’t be an issue even with a much leaner physique.

“If you’re worried about his effectiveness as blocker, that might be a concern,” said Billick, “but he’s strong, and he’s tough.”

Blocking is also a function of leverage. Gronkowski has always been one of the best blocking tight ends in the league. Sharpe wasn’t concerned about Gronk’s blocking ability so much. He just thought it was time for the Patriots tight end to consider not taking so many hits.

“I was never the size of Gronk, but year 6 or 7, I tried to come in a pound or two less every year,” said Sharpe. “It’s hard to get leaner. I was coming in to camp at 6 percent, 5 percent body fat. I don’t know how much leaner I could have gotten and been effective playing. But I do understand Gronk doing this. Gronk is a big man.

“No one is ever going to question Rob Gronkowski’s toughness, he just has to be smart. You don’t always have to take on all 11 defenders. It’s OK to go down. It’s OK to get 13 yards and not take a big hit, as opposed to trying to get 15, 16 and getting 3 or 4 extra yards.”

Ultimately, both Billick and Sharpe thought Gronkowski continuing to get more pliable, and continuing with the TB12 method was the right way to go.

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“Gronk is trying to do what he thinks is best for him. The better Gronk you get, the better your chances are of winning. But I get it,” said Sharpe. “Mr. (Robert) Kraft is paying his training staff hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Why should anyone go elsewhere? I’ll tell you why. Because the greatest muscle an athlete has is his mind. It’s not his hamstring, it’s not his quad, it’s not his biceps, it’s his mind. They believe Guerrero gives them an advantage. He offers them something the Patriots training staff doesn’t.”

So get ready for a lean, mean Gronk machine.

Hall of a responsibility

The Patriots Hall of Fame Nomination Committee met Wednesday to go through the process of selecting three finalists for 2018. Those finalists will be announced later this month, with fan voting for the winner scheduled to begin April 18.

It was fun to be a part of the nomination committee. There were plenty of worthy names, and the task of paring it down to three wasn’t easy given an abundance of Super Bowl-era candidates.

Left tackle Matt Light, linebacker Mike Vrabel, safety Rodney Harrison and defensive tackle Richard Seymour garnered a lot of support.

One of the best debates was between Light, who protected Brady’s blindside for 11 seasons, and Leon Gray, who was with the Pats six seasons and a finalist twice (2013, 2015).

Chuck Fairbanks and Bill Parcells were also discussed. Both have been finalists before, but haven’t fared well in the fan vote. The notion of having them inducted as contributors was briefly talked about, but that doesn’t seem likely.

For the record, my three votes went to Vrabel, Harrison and Light. It was tough leaving Seymour off, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him be a finalist for the second straight year.

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