More than 17 years removed from his last National Football League game, Mark Bavaro hasn't lost his passion for the position he helped to revolutionize.
"I'd have loved to play tight end in their system," Bavaro laughed, speaking about the record-setting duo of tight ends employed by the New England Patriots, who will take on his former team, the New York Giants, Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis in Super Bowl XLVI.
"I'm biased, but I love what they're doing with their tight ends. Gronk (Rob Gronkowski) and (Aaron) Hernandez, I have to say, are two of the best tight ends in the entire league. To have both of them on the same team ... it's awesome to watch."
The 48-year-old Bavaro, one of the game's best-ever tight ends, has strong ties to both championship game participants. He's a former All-Pro tight end for the Giants and led them to Super Bowl crowns in 1986 and 1990; he's also very close with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who coached him with both the Giants and the Browns.
The former Danvers High and Notre Dame superstar has no plans on attending Sunday's game; if it's up to him, he'll be watching the game on his couch in Boxford. But like millions of other Americans, he's interested to see exactly what will unfold when the two clubs battle for football's ultimate prize for the second time in five seasons.
Particularly when it comes to watching the tight ends.
Bavaro said he enjoys watching Hernandez ply his trade, but sees him more as a receiver-type; there's more of a connection for him with Gronkowski, who is currently battling through a reported high ankle sprain but is fully expected to play, and contribute offensively, against New York.