Rob Gronkowski is returning to an NFL role this season. Just not, apparently, as an active player.
When the Patriots play the Giants on “Thursday Night Football” on Fox, Gronkowski will be starting a new job as a studio analyst on the network.
The nine-year Patriot and four-time All-Pro tight end will join Michael Strahan, Terry Bradshaw, Tony Gonzalez, and Peter Schrager on Fox’s Thursday night pregame show. He also will be part of the network’s Sunday studio programming.
Fox issued a statement, with this quote attributed to Gronkowski: “For the past 25 years, they’ve offered viewers top-notch NFL programming from the field to the booth to the studio. Their deep talent roster is unmatched, which was important for me as I embark on this new chapter in my life.”
Added Fox Sports executive vice president Brad Zager: “He is one of the most popular players to ever play the game and also one of the best tight ends in NFL history. His passion for the game and larger-than-life personality make him a perfect fit for Fox Sports.”
Gronkowski, who retired as a player in March after an electrifying career that was often interrupted by injuries, had not downplayed frequent speculation that he would return to the Patriots this season.
The new role seems to put an end to that at least for this season, though a return to the playing field at some point remains possible. Cowboys tight end Jason Witten returned to the field this season after one year in ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” booth. Witten is 37, while Gronkowski is 30.
It’s worth noting that Gronkowski may be a fit at Fox in another way. He has appeared at WrestleMania events and is a huge WWE fan. Fox recently launched “SmackDown,’’ a Friday night WWE series.
Gronkowski has been involved in other interests since retiring, including advocating for a CBD company. During a promotional event announcing his role doing that in August, the usually effervescent Gronkowski talked candidly about the pain he dealt with while trying to recover from his injuries. He also said the NFL would have to change something before he would come back.
“To come back, they’re going to have to legalize CBD in the NFL,” he told Yahoo! Finance. “No matter what I say, people are still going to say I’m coming back — so, I’m coming back, but I’m not.”