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Richard Sherman: Rob Gronkowski is 'pretty great'

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PHOENIX -- While Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane panned the play of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, his Seattle teammates know better.

"(Lane is) entitled to his own opinion," said cornerback Richard Sherman on Sunday, "but I think (Gronkowski) is pretty great."

Seattle defensive lineman Michael Bennett also called Gronk a "great player," giving credit to the New England difference-maker who has authored new frontiers at his position.

Leading all tight ends with 1,124 receiving yards this season, Gronkowski has caught more touchdowns over his first five seasons than any player at his position in NFL history.

"He (presents) the challenges of being (6-foot-6-plus)," Bennett said. "His body's pretty good. He's a good blocker. I think he does great. I think his run-after-catch is second to none. I think he has great hands. He's just a great player, honestly."

We expect the Patriots to feature Gronkowski from wire to wire on Sunday, leaning heavily on a player who operates as one of the league's most dangerous threats in the red zone. Of his 59 career touchdowns, an NFL-best 46 of those have come within the 20-yard line. The Seahawks will be forced to counter with their cast of linebackers, the athletic Sherman, and safeties Earl Thomas and the hard-hitting Kam Chancellor.

Thomas, for one, believes Seattle's secondary has the requisite power to clamp down on the tough-to-tackle Gronk.

"We worry about what we have to do," Thomas said. "We worry about our job and it is just the personnel and the matchups. We match up very well in this game, so we are going to focus in our job and own our role. I want to be the best free safety for the Seattle Seahawks and we will see what happens at the end of the game."

The latest Around The NFL Podcast reacts to the Patriots' deflated footballs controversy and tells you whom to trust in Super Bowl XLIX. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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