Tom Brady noted Monday he wasn’t going to lobby for Rob Gronkowski to return to the Patriots. But even if New England’s quarterback did try to recruit his former favorite target, it sounds like it would be a fool’s errand.

Gronkowski has been fairly wishy-washy about the idea of staging an NFL comeback. The possibility looked more like a pipe dream when he tearfully explained the pain football inflicted on him over the course of his nine-year career. Conversely, Patriots fans’ hopes were kept alive as the future Hall of Fame tight end, on more than one occasion, noted the door remained open on a potential return to the playing field.

Well, it sure sounds like the 30-year-old isn’t eager to strap the pads back on. When asked Tuesday to give a simple “yes” or “no” about possibly rejoining the Patriots, Gronkowski offered his most direct answer to date.

“I’ll give an answer,” Gronkowski said on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show,” as transcribed by NBC Sports Boston. “When I retired, I retired for a reason: because I needed to step away. So it would be a no. There it is.”

Still, Gronkowski knows even point-blank statements won’t entirely quell the rumors and chatter.

“I never say no, because I’ve said no, and everyone’s like, ‘Yeah, he’s kidding. He’s coming back,'” Gronkowski said. “But it’s a no. In my mind, that’s how it is. It’s a no.”

There you have it.

Sorry, Patriots fans. As much as you’d like to see Gronk catch more passes from Brady, the far more likely scenario is the Patriots trying to make it work with an underwhelming group of tight ends.

Thumbnail photo via Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports Images