There was never a dull moment around Rob Gronkowski.
Whether he was running over a defenseless defensive back (”Throwing ‘em out of the club,” as he liked to say) or holding court at his corner locker at Gillette Stadium, the big tight end always was entertaining.
Gronkowski, perhaps the best tight end in NFL history, retired for the second time Tuesday, announcing his decision via Instagram — just as he did the first time around, following the 2018 season.
“I will now be going back into my retirement home, walking away from football again with my head held high knowing I gave it everything I had, good or bad, every time I stepped out on the field,” wrote Gronkowski, 33. “The friendships and relationships I have made will last forever, and I appreciate every single one of my teammates and coaches for giving everything they had as well.”
Gronkowski’s goodbye salute was largely directed toward the Buccaneers organization and the fans in Tampa, but he’ll forever be linked with the Patriots, who drafted him in the second round in 2010 and for whom he played nine seasons, winning three Super Bowls.
He collected 521 receptions for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns in New England, where he will go down as one of the most popular players in franchise history. No. 87 Gronkowski jerseys are still omnipresent at Gillette Stadium and when the Patriots play on the road.
The 6-foot-6-inch, 265-pound Gronkowski was a complete tight end, one who formed a devastating combination with Tom Brady. He was a gifted athlete who was part beauty and part beast.
He had exceptional hands, made acrobatic catches, and could run through secondaries like a man on a mission. When it came to blocking, whether he was protecting Brady or opening lanes for the running backs, he played with the same enthusiasm.
“It was a pleasure and a privilege to coach Rob Gronkowski the past nine years,” Bill Belichick said after the tight end first retired. “From his rookie year until his final season and through countless times in between, Rob was a major reason why we won games and championships.
“Rob’s impact on our team and organization was felt in many ways. In the ultimate team sport, Rob was a great, great teammate. His production spoke for itself, but his daily attitude, unmistakably positive energy wherever he went and toward whoever he touched will never be forgotten.”
After sitting out the 2019 season, Gronkowski, spurred by Brady, came out of retirement, and was traded to the Buccaneers. The two spearheaded a Super Bowl run in Tampa Bay in 2020. In two seasons there, Gronkowski caught 100 passes for 1,425 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Not everyone is convinced that Gronkowski won’t pull a similar move this time, too. Drew Rosenhaus, Gronkowski’s agent, told ESPN: “It would not surprise me if Tom Brady calls him during the season to come back and Rob answers the call. This is just my opinion but I wouldn’t be surprised if Rob comes back during the season or next season.”
But Gronkowski asserted that this is it.
“From retirement, back to football and winning another championship and now back to chilling out, thank you to all,” he wrote. “Buccaneers fans, the Krewe, without you guys, none of this is possible, all of ya brought it every game, thank you for all you do. Cheers to what’s next, maybe sailing the seas. Arghhhhhh!!”
One place certain to be on his itinerary is Canton, Ohio, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Jim McBride can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.