In a way emblematic of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a team, Rob Gronkowski truly found his stride toward the conclusion of a Super Bowl-winning campaign last season.
At this juncture last year, Gronkowski wasn't that far removed from retirement, so it naturally took him some time to find his way back to form.
Now, the future Hall of Fame tight end is better acclimated with the Tampa Bay offensive system and the temperatures, which could forecast improved fortune for Gronk in 2021.
"It feels good," said Gronkowski Friday on the difference from last year to this year at the same time. "Just coming in last year and trying to learn the playbook and be thinking when you get up to the line -- it just feels a lot more efficient this year."
While Gronkowski came out of retirement after one year away to rejoin Tom Brady in Tampa, there was an abundance of differences to get accustomed to.
"Dealing with the heat, that's definitely a factor, no doubt about it. Just knowing a whole new system, a whole new playbook and knowing in the back of mind now," Gronkowski said. "So, right when I break the huddle, I just go out there and just do what I gotta do and just react as a football player instead of thinking. I just feel a lot better out there this year and just overall in terms. Just gotta keep on working to improve every time."
For nine seasons, Gronkowski was a focal point in the Patriots' offense and prepared for every year in the much cooler climate of New England.
Thusly, it's not arduous to fathom it took some time for Gronk to get up to speed after coming off the proverbial retirement couch.
He finished his first Tampa Bay regular season with 45 receptions for 623 yards and seven touchdowns. He began the year with just two catches for 11 yards over the first two games.
It wasn't quite as simple as Gronkowski being a consistent contributor thereafter, as he'd have some big games and some quiet ones. Still, as the season wore on, Gronkowski settled in.
It was a bit more of the same in the postseason as he went quiet again before an emphatic final act. During the first three playoff games, he had only two combined catches, but came alive in the Super Bowl with six grabs for 67 yards and two touchdowns from Tom Brady.
The 32-year-old's physical style has slowed him across a career that boasts five Pro Bowls and four Super Bowl wins. But he's settled in and feeling better this year than he did the last, which bodes better for the Bucs' quest to repeat.