At 29, Gronkowski feels like one of the old guys

Well, it has been 10 years since he played at Arizona

Former Arizona Wildcats tight Rob Gronkowski is entering his ninth NFL season, all with the New England Patriots, as one of the greatest -- the greatest? -- ever at his position.

He has 474 catches for 7,719 yards and 76 touchdowns in 102 regular-season games.

The fun-loving Gronk won't turn 30 until May.

In a media session earlier this week, he talked about his veteran status on the powerful Patriots.

"I know, that is crazy actually. I know, I am 29 going on my ninth year and its like Im like a true veteran for sure now," he said.

"Its just wild and it just shows how quick it goes, how much you should just appreciate it while youre in it. Its crazy just seeing a couple 21-year-olds running around the locker room now, 22-year-olds, and just being 29 now. I was always the youngest one on like every team growing up, kind of when I got here too, so its all so cool."

Check out the full transcript of what Gronk had to say:

August 28, 2018

Q: What do you say to the younger guys fighting for a roster spot this week and this Thursday night?

RG: Just go hard, play hard. Give it all you got this game. I mean, youre not just showcasing for the Patriots but you could possibly be showcasing for around the league. So just play hard, do the best you can and finish plays.

Q: Do you feel like you have an expanded role in the pass-catching game this season due to the lack of depth at wide receiver?

RG: I mean my role expands depending on my capabilities on the practice field, what Im showing, what the coaches want me to do, what the coaches have planned for the game plan that upcoming week. So its up to myself, what role I can create myself and what I can do out there on the field and thats what it basically rolls down to. So if Im showing them I can line-up out wide, line-up inline, catch a pass wherever I am, then Im sure the coaches would gameplan me to be wherever I need to be.

Q: Does the constant changing of wide receivers affect you at all?

RG: No, it doesnt really matter. The coaches are always putting us in the best position to run the best play with the best personnel group that our team has. So all that in-and-out, I mean we practice it every day in walkthroughs out on the practice field so we got that down and it doesnt really affect me.

Q: It doesnt matter to you whos out there?

RG: Nope, not at all.

Q: What was your reaction to seeing Shaq Masons extension?

RG: Oh yeah, I mean hes a great player. His speed is unreal, the way he can close the gap on a small defender and just block him is unbelievable. Hes a great player and its always great to see guys like him get a deal like that.

Q: What do you feel like youve accomplished over training camp and are you happy with where you are right now going into the last couple days?

RG: I mean, I always got stuff to work on big-time, no matter what it is. Route-running, route detail, blocking but I felt like it was a good camp overall. Got a lot of conditioning in, lot of reps in, the passing game, the run game, whatever it is. Now we just focus on keeping on going to the next level, keep on getting in better shape and the next couple practices throughout the next week, this week. So got to keep grinding.

Q: How about the fact that youve been out there every day? Some years youve been slow to come back.

RG: Its good. Its good to be out there every day and get the work in, get the body adjusted. I would say the biggest part is putting the pads on, not just the shoulder pads but the pants, all the pads, and being able to run in it and being conditioned in it. Its good that we were just out there for the last month basically every day getting that in.

Q: Do you feel like your bodys in as good of shape as its been in sometime and are you ready for the grind of the NFL season?

RG: I definitely feel ready for sure and I feel good. But I mean, its a long season. Its kind of hard to describe the body. I mean you got to go through it in order to understand. Its on every play I would say. One day you could be feeling great and then the next day, you just dont know how youre going to feel. Taking hits, you could take a helmet to the thigh, you could take a helmet to the chest, wherever, and your body could just react differently. The swelling can react differently and then youre feeling like garbage the next day. I cant really ever get up here and ever say that I feel amazing because you just never know. Every single day though, I prepare myself to the fullest so I can feel the best I can feel the next day.

Q: Weve talked to Tom Brady about his new helmet. Last week you had a new helmet too. How did you feel in the new helmet?

RG: Felt good. I got the new helmet on too, theres a lot of us with it and it really fits on your head. Theres no lagging side-to-side. It just goes with you like its part of your head. Its a great helmet.

Q: When you see contracts like Odell Beckham Jr. and other receivers got, whats your reaction?

RG: Those are great players. Hes a great player. He comes up clutch in many situations and just his talent is second-to-none. Its always good to see guys like that that got that talent Im in for the players always. I mean, Im a player, so its good to see that.

Q: Do you want to see tight ends get lumped in to the pass-catcher category?

RG: That would be pretty cool.

Q: Are you looking to have something new done with your contract in the near future?

RG: Im always open for that.

Q: Would you like something to be done before the season?

RG: It is what it is. Thats not really my focus. I got a long season ahead and just trying to focus on what I need to really do and just let everything else play out.

Q: At what point does the switch flip for you to start focusing on Week One?

RG: We got a game and theres a lot of players on the team that are playing the game Thursday so we got to keep on preparing, we got two more days. But I would say after that its going to be go time. Its going to be preparation for the [Houston] Texans and its going to be a grind. Its going to be another year.

Q: Youve been in the league a long time. What keeps you playing?

RG: I just love playing the game. I feel good right now. I definitely feel like 100 times better than I did last year during training camp. When youre feeling good, you love playing the game. I feel good enough to where I thought I could come back, go throughout the whole season, go throughout camp and just keep playing the game and be enjoying it. Thats how its been and when youre enjoying the game, when youre feeling good, you just love playing the game. Its just something when youre out on the field, like your mind is just in another place because youre just focusing on what you got to do.

Q: Why do you say you feel so much better?

RG: Ive done a lot. Like I said, I just try to focus on my body every single day like after practice now and just try to get better every day and get the recovery going ASAP, right after the meetings and stuff so you feel good the next day. Theres times I remember when I was back rookie year, second year, you would just practice, go to meetings and you would do absolutely nothing but as you get older and I got to say, you got to be on top of the game, you got to be on top of your body in order to be going every day.

Q: Is there anything kind of fun about doing all that work because doing so allows you to unlock your full capability?

RG: Exactly. Yes. Its boring at first but after you start feeling the effects of being able to go again the next day, you unlock another capability, it keeps you going and thats what makes it fun.

Q: Does it ever strike you what a young mans game football is and that youre now a veteran on this team at 29 years old?

RG: I know, that is crazy actually. I know, I am 29 going on my ninth year and its like Im like a true veteran for sure now. Its just wild and it just shows how quick it goes, how much you should just appreciate it while youre in it. Its crazy just seeing a couple 21 year olds running around the locker room now, 22 year olds, and just being 29 now. I was always the youngest one on like every team growing up, kind of when I got here too, so its all so cool.

Q: Where have you found your rhythm in getting ready for Week One?

RG: Weve been going out on the practice field and weve been having some good practices, intense practices, versus our defense and just gaining rhythm out there. You got to find a rhythm out at practice because practice execution leads to game execution too. So you go on out on the practice field and right from the very first period going full-speed, getting the routes down, going to the on-air routes, running routes with the quarterbacks and then going to competition with our defense every single day. Its not just making a few plays here and there, in order to find a rhythm for practice to relate it to games, you got to be able to make plays in the first period and then make plays in the middle periods and make plays in the periods at the end of the practice too.