Mark Bavaro: Belichick curtailed practices to extend my career, and he should do same for Gronk

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(John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

In the early 1990s, Cleveland coach Bill Belichick made a big decision when it came to the health and maintenance of his productive -- but battered -- tight end.

Mark Bavaro, who had accumulated terrific numbers over the course of his career and been a big part of multiple Super Bowl winners, was slowly breaking down because of physical issues. It was decided he would have a limited practice schedule, with an eye toward keeping him fresh for Sundays.

Now, more than 20 years later, Belichick could be faced with a similar decision.

In 1992, Bavaro signed with the Browns at the age of 29, and Belichick agreed to the same practice plan Bavaro had with the Giants in 1990 — limited practice time in exchange for production come Sunday. That year, Bavaro played 16 games and had 25 catches for 315 yards and a pair of touchdowns, all while practicing sparingly.

With a myriad of physical issues facing the 29-year-old Rob Gronkowski — maybe the only other tight end Belichick would ever put in the same class as Bavaro — should Belichick re-institute the Bavaro Plan with his current tight end? While the practice schedule is much different than it was back in the early 1990s — less padded practices, for one — it could be one way to maintain his health moving forward.

For his part, Bavaro loves the idea of limiting Gronkowski during the week.