By Ian Rapoport
FOXBOROUGH — Rob Gronkowski crosses the goal line in style, with ease, whether he's carrying defenders on his back or not.
The Patriots' tight end made eyes pop when he did it for the second time against the Redskins on Dec. 11, soaring over the threshold and floating in the air long enough to wind up and spike the football so hard that it soared 30 feet in the air. The touchdown at FedEx Field, a 37-yarder that left Washington OLB Ryan Kerrigan wallowing in his own misery on the turf, set a new NFL standard at his position.
It was his 15th touchdown catch, extending a record he set earlier in the game. That ball, the one that helped him pass Vernon Davis' and Antonio Gates' single-season marks, he slammed into the grass, watched it bounce back through the uprights, then corralled it for safe keeping. The second-year pro and Pro Bowl lock was asked what he planned for the ball.
"Practice my spikes," Gronkowski said.
In three words, the 2010 second-round pick flashed the playful side that has endeared him to an NFL public that has watched him become a crossover star. It also unveiled a different side, the one that drives him to improve everything — yes, even his monster spikes.
QB Tom Brady is fond of saying that Gronkowski never has a bad day, and on the field, that's true. No player at his position dominates games like he does, and the 6-6, 265-pounder is especially productive in the red zone.
No wonder Redskins CB Josh Wilson referred to Gronkowski as the "human gargoyle." As in half-man, half-beast. Others refer to the nationwide phenomenon by another name:
Gronkowski has said he'd like Dolph Lundgren (a.k.a. Ivan Drago from "Rocky IV") to play him in a movie, and Lundgren would be perfect. That hasn't happened yet, but Gronk has been everywhere else.
To read the rest of this profile on Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski, purchase a copy of the current issue Pro Football Weekly online at the PFWstore.com. In this issue, you'll also find analysis of the Ravens' offense, as it seeks to become more consistent before entering the postseason in January; our comprehensive fantasy football coverage; and our draft-related "Audibles" and "The Way We Hear It."