As the late, great Yogi Berra once said…”It’s like deja vu all over again.”
After an offseason of much speculation, former New England Patriots, and now former Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski has announced his retirement from the NFL. Gronkowski’s decision was first reported by NFL insider Jordan Schulz, on Tuesday.
Gronkowski, himself, later confirmed the report via social media.
On the field, Gronkowski will forever be remembered as one of the most prolific tight ends in football history. He was both a skilled receiver and talented blocker. During his nine-year tenure in New England, Gronkowski set several NFL records. In 2011, he became the only tight end to lead the league in receiving touchdowns with 17. He also has the most seasons with 1,000+ receiving yards by a tight end with four. When all was said and done, he finished his illustrious career with 521 receptions for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns.
During his postseasons in a Patriots uniform, Gronkowski was equally brilliant. He has the most career postseason receiving yards by a tight end (1,163), as well as the most career postseason receiving touchdowns for his position with 12. He also rose to the occasion on the grandest stage of them all; compiling the most combined receptions (23) and receiving yards (297) by a tight end in Super Bowl history. In what might end up being his most-immortalized moment (as well as his final Patriots’ reception), Gronkowski hauled in the game-sealing catch to catapult the Patriots to a Super Bowl LIII title.
Following a one-year retirement in 2019, Gronkowski informed the Pats of his intention to return to pro football. The caveat was that he wanted the team to trade him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in hopes of reuniting with his former quarterback, Tom Brady — who himself had left New England just weeks earlier via free agency.
A short time after Gronkowski’s request was first reported, the deal was done and officially announced by both clubs: the Patriots sent the future Hall of Famer and a seventh-round draft pick to Tampa in return for a fourth-round selection. In his two years with the Bucs, Gronkowski hauled in 100 catches on 166 targets for 1425 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also appeared in six playoff games with Tampa Bay, catching 17 passes — three of which were for touchdowns. Gronkowski played an integral part in helping the Buccaneers to their 31-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.
Assuming he has truly played his final down on an NFL football field, Gronkowski leaves the game having redefined his position. The skill with which he played the game has set a higher bar for each tight end that takes the field following his exit. While a host of injuries may lead some to question whether he complexly reached his full potential, both his resume and prowess make his eventual enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame a mere formality.