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The unanimous All-Pro selection of former Arizona Wildcats tight end Rob Gronkowski on Friday puts into motion discussion of him possibly earning NFL MVP honors with how New England is playing entering the playoffs.
Never has a former Arizona player achieved such an honor.
The Patriots, 12-4 and AFC Eastern champs, have this weekend off before starting their quest next week for the Super Bowl. It will be difficult for Gronkowski to top teammate Tom Brady, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning and Dallas running back DeMarco Murray because those players are at more glamorous positions.
ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss documented Gronkowski’s candidacy for the MVP award with four bullet points:
* The Patriots were 2-2 in the first four games of the season as Gronkowski was working his way into the mix after not playing in the preseason while recovering from a torn ACL sustained in December 2013. Gronkowski was averaging 35 snaps in those games and clearly not yet at 100 percent. Over the last 10 games, Gronkowski is averaging 63.2 snaps per game, is back to 100 percent and the Patriots are 9-1.
* Gronkowski draws attention from defenders opening plays for other receivers and running backs out of the backfield.
* He’s a true combination tight end — lethal in the passing and blocking games.
* Gronkowski’s stats are unbelievable for a tight end: 76 catches, 1,093 yards, 11 touchdowns (after his slow start, no less).
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