PEABODY, Mass. -- Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski led a ProCamps for 450 children at Bishop Fenwick High School Saturday morning, giving them advice on fundamentals, taking photos and sharing high fives with the exuberant campers.
"The camp is cool. As a kid growing up -- I never did a camp or anything," he said. "I started off in high school going to big-time college camps to start and get recruited. It's cool to see everyone out here, kids 8 to 14 years old, just running around [and] having a good time. We've got a lot of high school coaches around here that know what they're doing, we've got the ProCamp guys, the 'hype man' out there, he's doing a great job, and they're all doing a great job and they all love their football. We're having a blast and it's going well."
Gronkowski, who was wearing a sling around his surgically repaired left forearm, was largely unable to do any hands-on instruction, instead spending time with groups of children as they were instructed by local area high school coaches. Gronkowski's brother Dan, a tight end for the Browns, also was on hand for the event, as was his father.
Prior to Gronkowski answering questions from reporters, a public relations staffer said that any health-related questions regarding Gronkowski's forearm or back would not be answered. Gronkowski was asked whether overseeing and instructing at the camp impacted his arm in any way.
"Doing a camp like this, it's just fun going out here, we're just hanging out, obviously if I was mobile I'd be out there running around with the kids," he replied. "It's a blast always doing things with kids, and unfortunately I can't run out there, so maybe in the near future one time I'll be out there with the kids running around. But as of right now I can give them advice, everyone is coming up to me asking questions, we're just doing pictures and we're having a blast that way."
Many of the campers expressed their support for Gronkowski, who is scheduled to undergo back surgery later this month. Posed the question of how he would reply to a camper who wants to know if he will be on the field for the start of the season, Gronkowski offered, "I just tell them every time, 'we'll see.' Obviously I tell the kids, 'you'll see me out there again one day.' That's all, no guarantee answer to them, I just mess around and I'm just here to have a good time with them."
Spending time with the children after an offseason that has already included two additional surgeries to his forearm (following a pair during the 2012 season) is something that Gronkowski welcomes.
"Yeah, coming out here for sure," he said. "You just see everyone having a great time, the parents in the stands, they're all happy, all smiling, their kids are out here doing the camp, having a good time during the day on this beautiful day here. It brings up my spirits too, seeing the kids running around, having a blast, just happy to see me. Even though I'm not even participating, they're just happy to see me."
Despite being limited physically, Gronkowski said he wouldn't miss the camp, which he committed to months in advance.
"I don't really back out of anything ever and what would it take for me to [not] come out here?" he said with a smile. "If I were in like a body bag or something, I don't know."
One of the highlights for the campers was a "Gronk spiking" competition in which they emulated the 24-year-old's signature touchdown celebration with the camp instructors serving as judges.