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Playful Rob Gronkowski is coy on retirement rumors

Rob Gronkowski was all smiles for Super Bowl Opening Night Monday in Atlanta.John Bazemore/AP

ATLANTA — The life of the party at Super Bowl Opening Night was just one stall over from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

“Gronkie!” Brady shouted to his left. “Who’s having more fun than him tonight? Nobody.”

Rob Gronkowski surely seemed to be enjoying himself Monday evening at State Farm Arena, where he happily fielded questions about topics ranging from his offseason trip to Jamaica, Chick-fil-A’s hours of operations, and his Foxborough’s home security system. He joked around with reporters, played carnival games with children part of the NFL’s “Play 60” program, and even got invited to a frat party at Emory University.

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“Wow,” he said. “We have curfew or else I’d come.”

His buoyancy also permeated to a slightly more sensitive subject: What are the chances that the Super Bowl is the final game of his NFL career? While Brady curled his hand into a zero when asked the same question in a recent interview with ESPN, Gronkowski elected to go a different route.

“You know what number I’m putting up about my chances,” he said, grinning from ear to ear. “You guys know my favorite number. That’s the probability.”

Rob Gronkowski drew big crowds on Opening Night to begin his fourth career Super Bowl week.Rob Carr/Getty Images

All kidding aside, Gronkowski neglected to give a firm indication about his intentions for next season. The 29-year-old has one year remaining on his contract, though the retirement rumors that emerged following Super Bowl LII have resurfaced.

Gronkowski emphasized his plans for the future “are the last things [he’s] thinking of” this week. He said he’ll deliberate when he sits down a few weeks after the game. Until then, his focus is locked in on the Los Angeles Rams and the upcoming game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this Sunday.

“It feels good to be back here,” Gronkowski said. “I’m going to keep on working. I’m going to keep on dedicating myself to my teammates because they’ve been working hard the whole year. The whole organization, they’ve just been working hard all year, and, without them, I wouldn’t be here. Without the team, I wouldn’t be here. So what that means is I just have to keep on giving, giving all that I have.”

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Gronkowski said his mindset this year was “the same as always”: “To work as hard as possible” and “to keep the grind going.” During the regular season, he missed three games due to lingering ankle and back woes, and finished with 47 catches for 682 yards and three touchdowns. Despite putting up numbers a bit lower than what was expected, however, Gronkowski said the past season has been “fun.”

“We know there’s a lot been said about that this year,” he said. “We’ve embraced that a little bit more than usual. We’re not letting it distract us. We’re just embracing it and taking it in.”

Gronkowski and the Patriots have adopted an underdog mentality this year — one that they’ve used to their advantage by weaponizing negative commentary. During the AFC Championship, for example, wide receiver Julian Edelman screamed at Tom Brady because he’s “too old.”

“You get to laugh at the other player that gets made fun of and then you get to sit and say it to them, too,” Gronkowski said. “Like Tom has a ‘noodle arm.’ We’ve heard that one before, so then all throughout practice, we’re telling Tom he has a ‘noodle arm.’ We’re just doing it all for laughs and fun because we know he doesn’t have a ‘noodle arm.’ ”

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But not everything said about the Patriots is wrong, according to Gronkowski.

“They get some things right,” he said. “That we work hard, that we dedicate, [and] that we keep on grinding.”

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski smile during Opening Night for the Super Bowl.David J. Phillip/Associated Press