by Alex Poletti
Photo by USA Today
The balance of the NFL was tilted in the favor of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Tuesday, as four-time All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski came out of retirement to play with his former quarterback, Tom Brady. Gronkowski tells reporters that he’s not planning on staying in the league forever, just until he gets a couple more concussions under his belt.
“I know Tom has been talking a lot about playing until he is 50, but that isn’t me,” Gronkowski, who retired in 2018, says. “Personally, I just saw the opportunity to play with Tom again and I had to take it. But once I get one or two more concussions, I think I’ll be satisfied.”
Gronk, often considered the greatest tight end of all time, retired at the age of 29, citing constant pain and mental health issues as key reasons. However, the opportunity of playing with Brady, with whom he won three Super Bowls, and a vamped up Tampa Bay offense proved too enticing to keep him off the field.
“I quit because the pain was too much,” the former second round pick says. “I was physically well enough to play, but mentally it just wasn’t healthy for me to keep on doing that. Once I quit, though, I realized that the pain and depression wasn’t going away. So I thought if I’m gonna be in a constant state of agony, I might as well catch a few footballs while I do it.”
Because the five-time Pro-Bowler still had one year left of his contract with New England, the Bucs agreed to trade a fourth-rounder for the tight end. New England got less than they would have hoped for, as general manager Bill Belichick agreed to trade Gronk to the Detroit Lions in 2018 for a first and a second, but the trade fell through after Gronkowski said he’d rather retire than play with another quarterback than Tom Brady.
“Rob had all the leverage in this situation, so there wasn’t much we could do,” Belichick says. “Obviously, we wish we could have gotten the same return that we would have from the Lions, but we will have to make due with a fourth. It’s a lot harder to draft a bust in the fourth round, but given my recent track record I think we’ll be able to make it work.”
Gronk’s specific reasoning for his return is not yet clear—whether he has Super Bowl aspirations or was just missing the game, he’ll be suiting up for Tampa Bay in 2020.
“I’m excited for the chance to play with Tom again,” Gronk says. “Hopefully we can make a few more memories that I will completely forget after a few hard hits from some defensive linemen.”