We might be seeing the last of Rob Gronkowski in a New England Patriots uniform.
Ahead of Sunday’s divisional-round playoff matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers, NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported the Patriots tight end “will strongly consider retirement” after this season.
Gronkowski mulled stepping away from the game after New England’s Super Bowl LII loss to the Philidelphia Eagles, waiting until April before committing to return for a ninth NFL season. That season wound up being one of the least productive of his career, as the 29-year-old posted some of his worst numbers since his rookie year.
Ankle and back injuries forced Gronkowski to sit out three games during the regular season, and even when active, he was not the dominant force he’d been even one year earlier, when he earned first-team All-Pro honors. His 52.5 yards-per-game average was his lowest since 2010, and his three touchdown receptions tied for the lowest mark of his career.
Gronkowski, who caught 47 passes on 72 targets for 682 yards in 13 games, ranked 13th among tight ends in receptions, sixth in receiving yards, tied for 17th in touchdown catches, 11th in yards per catch, sixth in yards per game and 20th in yards per target after ranking first in receiving yards and tied for second in touchdown catches in 2017.
Speaking in a news conference this week, Gronkowski acknowledged his injuries have limited him at times this season but said the postseason is not the time for excuses.
“I’ve been in situations like that before, no doubt — practice, games,” he said. “You’ve dealt with things like that before and had felt like that before like, ‘Dang.’ But it’s the game of football. There’s no room for excuses, everyone’s dealing with something and you’ve just got to keep on moving forward and you’ve got to find a way.
“It’s what makes this game great. You’ve got to be mentally and physically prepared at all times to keep on going.”
Gronkowski will face a difficult challenge Sunday against Chargers All-Pro rookie safety Derwin James, who’s been among the NFL’s best at defending tight ends this season.
Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images