Looking wan and pale, tentative and skittish, superstar Patriot poster boy for fun, Rob Gronkowski was allowed out of the Belichick dungeon for the first time in weeks, only days before the last regular season game with the Miami Dolphins.
Hours after his coach, Dr. Frankenstein Belichick, declared Gronk was not ready to play in the final game of the season, the actual creature was available to members of the media.
As expected, Gronk toed the party line and repeated frequently his mantra: "In Bill we trust."
The live wire seemed wet and grounded for his first reappearance into the media world. Gronk seemed to be the Manchurian Candidate when he repeated ad nauseum: "When they let me, I'll be out there."
Clearly the strain of being kept under wraps had left the giant needing a tanning salon and carrot juice.
Gronk told children to listen to the doctor and take your medicine because they know what they are talking about. We are not sure if Gronk knows what he is talking about.
Some people wondered if Gronk had been de-programmed during his absence, put through the Belichick "change of attitude" program.
The once free spirit has begun to look like a canary in a gilded cage.
Wizened veterans simply noted that the young and puckish Gronk had simply done some maturing and growing up during the few weeks out of the public eye. He was lockstep and on point, but a few free spirits in the world think that Belichick has clipped the wings of this rare bird.
Whether we shall see publicity games and haywire lunacy from Gronk again is doubtful unless the Super Bowl becomes out of the reach of the New England Patriots.
Gronk was there, the tool of Belichick's machinations, a mere shell of his former self. Alas, poor Gronk, we hardly knew ye.