Some within the league think that the Buccaneers took a swashbuckler’s approach to landing quarterback Tom Brady, ignoring rarely-applied tampering rules in order to ensure that they got their man. And it worked; no one has seriously questioned whether the Bucs had premature communications with Brady (even though the circumstances suggest they did), in the same way the league has turned a blind eye to Brady meeting with Buccaneers coaches in violation of the offseason workout rules.
And now it’s possible that the Bucs may have fractured a rule or two in the pursuit of tight end Rob Gronkowski. Appearing Saturday on the Bud Light Seltzter “Drafterparty,” Gronk said regarding the fact that Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow has been studying the team’s playbook for weeks, “I was in a Tampa Bay Buccaneers playbook four weeks ago, and I wasn’t even on the team.”
While Gronk having the playbook may not be a rules violation in and of itself, how he got it could be. Until he was traded last week from New England to Tampa Bay, Gronkowski continued to be under contract with the Patriots. If the Buccaneers were having direct communications with Gronk about joining the team, and if getting him the playbook was simply part of the process, that could be a potential problem for Tampa Bay.
The Patriots did not respond to a request for comment as to whether they authorized communications between the Buccaneers and Gronkowski prior to the something-for-nothing trade that allowed New England to get compensation for a guy who was never going to play for them again. And the Patriots generally didn’t seem to be inclined to make a stink about potential tampering that may have occurred with Brady in February or March, by the Buccaneers or anyone else.
Regardless, Gronk’s decision to blurt out the fact that he had a Bucs playbook weeks before the Patriots traded him to Tampa could could require the league to engage in the same kind of tightrope-walking that excused Brady’s meeting with offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, ostensibly to pick up a playbook.
Maybe the explanation this time around will be that Brady was picking up a copy of the playbook that, unbeknownst to the Buccaneers, he planned to give to Gronk.