The next seven weeks will be pivotal to Rob Gronkowski’s football future.

The former New England Patriots tight end must return to the Patriots by Dec. 3 in order to be eligible to play this season, The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin reported this week in his “Sunday Football Notes,” citing NFL rules. Gronkowski currently is on the reserve/retired list but he technically can come off that list on or before Dec. 3, just two days after the Patriots will visit the Houston Texans, and still feature in the regular season or playoffs.

Gronkowski seemingly has been enjoying himself since he announced his retirement in March. However, he said Thursday night on FOX he hasn’t ruled out returning to the field, and Patriots owner Robert Kraft also revealed the 30-year-old has yet to officially file his retirement papers.

Although the Patriots have enjoyed an undefeated start to the season, a player with Gronkowski’s Hall of Fame-worthy pass-catching and blocking abilities almost certainly would improve the team’s hopes of repeating as Super Bowl champions.

Nevertheless, a Gronkowski comeback appears to be a remote possibility heading into Week 7, but recent NFL happenings have conditioned us all to expect the unexpected.

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