It took Rob Gronkowski until March 24, 2019, to announce his retirement from the NFL, but the all-time great tight end knew he was done playing as he walked off the Mercedes-Benz Stadium game field in Atlanta after Super Bowl LIII a month earlier.
He was lucky to even get to the locker room.
Gronkowski could barely walk after his New England Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 two years ago, as he tells it. He suffered a bruise so deep on his quad that he later said he had to have a liter of blood removed from his leg in the weeks after his third Super Bowl title. Gronkowski said he could barely sleep after the game. He was miserable.
It turns out he just needed some time to recover.
Gronkowski detailed his journey from severe pain and retirement to a storybook comeback after winning his fourth Super Bowl on Sunday as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Clearly, that retirement was short-lived.
“I remember after that win, I was so done coming off of the field,” Gronkowski said Sunday about Super Bowl LIII. “I was like, ‘I’m just glad it’s over.’ Just the pain I was in. It was great to be champ, but it just felt great to be done.”
Gronkowski peddled CBD oil, worked as a FOX Sports analyst and did some wrestling in his year off from the NFL. But after quarterback Tom Brady signed with the Buccaneers as a free agent, Gronkowski suddenly got the itch to return.
“I’ve been waiting for you to make a move,” Gronkowski told Brady at the time.
He caught six passes on seven targets for 67 yards with two touchdowns as the Bucs blew out the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 in Super Bowl LV.
“Take the year off, go through that journey, heal up, get my mind right and just see the options out there, see everything play out and come down here to Tampa Bay, come out of retirement,” Gronkowski said. “I retired from being retired, which is pretty cool.
“Just coming down here to this journey then, I saw the opportunity. I saw it was a great opportunity. I love Florida. It was an opportunity to be in great weather in a T-shirt, shorts and sandals basically every day going to work. That’s my style. Just unbelievable. What a journey it’s been. What a story it’s been. What a start it was to the journey and what a finish to the journey this is. It’s for real. It’s the real deal.”
And now Gronkowski actually plans to keep playing. He noted Sunday night that he’s set to be a free agent for the first time in his NFL career, which is pretty amazing but true for a guy who’s been doing this since 2010. Gronkowski was drafted by the Patriots, signed a mega six-year contract extension in 2012, retired with a year left on the deal and was traded from New England to Tampa Bay on April 21. He played out the final year of that contract this season.
“I don’t see why not,” Gronkowski said. “I don’t see why I wouldn’t be back.”
The tight end wasn’t quite at peak Gronk levels in 2020, but he still proved to be one of the best overall tight ends in football, catching 45 passes for 623 yards with seven touchdowns while delivering some elite blocking. In all likelihood, Gronkowski will be back playing with Brady in Tampa Bay next season. Brady shouted out “Robbie G” in his postgame news conference, fist pumped and threw him three winks. Brady is still signed for the 2021 season, then he, too, is set to hit free agency.
The pair are likely a package deal from here on out.
Gronkowski called his and Brady’s Super Bowl LV win “hands down one of the greatest accomplishments in sports history.” Why wouldn’t he want to keep playing in Tampa where he’s got his QB, sandals, shorts, T-shirts and the sun?