What did Matthew Slater appreciate most about Rob Gronkowski? ‘Authenticity'

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The New England Patriots obviously will miss Rob Gronkowski's immense talent.

But the players who saw Gronkowski on a daily basis know the retired tight end's impact extended well beyond the gridiron.

Patriots special teamer Matthew Slater touched on that impact Tuesday at Gillette Stadium while describing what Gronkowski meant to him on a personal level.

"Just a tremendous friend," Slater told reporters, via our Tom E. Curran. "Just the way he always treated me from the day he got here until the day that he left, he was so kind to me. Always made me feel like he was a friend and that we had a unique relationship."

Gronkowski indeed was a "unique" personality in the Patriots' locker room. But Slater insisted the tight end's trademark goofiness wasn't an act, which Slater and his Patriots teammates appreciated.

"Authenticity goes a long way, especially in today’s world,” Slater said. “You see a lot of inauthentic things, you see a lot of inauthentic people, but that certainly wasn’t the case with him. He was as genuine as they come. His character remained the same from the day that he got here until the day that he left.

"And despite all the success he was able to have on the football field, he was still a fun-loving kid that just enjoyed being around football. I think that’s the thing that I appreciated about him most: Rob was always Rob, and you knew he was always going to come in with a smile on his face having a good time."

New England has bolstered its tight end depth chart by signing Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Matt LaCosse and could look to add another tight end in the draft. But it will be impossible for the Patriots to fully replace Gronkowski's production -- or his unmistakable locker room presence.

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