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MIAMI — Rob Gronkowski is in a happy place. Now he wants his former quarterback to find one, too.
Gronkowski said Tuesday that Tom Brady has earned the right to test the free agent market and find the perfect fit for him and his family, whether that’s in New England or another NFL outpost.
Gronkowski, who now serves as a Fox Sports analyst, said he’s still in communication with Brady but that the quarterback’s future hasn’t been a topic of conversation.
“I really haven’t talked to Tom like that,’’ said Gronkowski. “I did talk to him after the [Titans] game. Just talked, you know. It wasn’t even all about football. It was just about life and all. But I truly believe that he deserves the opportunity to go explore — to see what’s out there. He’s been playing for so long and just the way that he’s been playing — just the level that he’s been playing at — he definitely deserves an opportunity to go out there and test the market.’’
Gronkowski, who played his entire nine-year career with the Patriots, said it makes sense to see what opportunities are out there for Brady, whose contract voids March 17. Unless he strikes a new deal with the Patriots, he’ll be a free agent when the new league year begins March 18.
“I mean, why wouldn’t you? You’ve never done it before in your career, and he’s going to be a free agent for the first time ever, so good for him,’’ said Gronkowski. “Go test out the market and then do what’s best for himself. That’s the decision that he has to make is what’s best for himself, what’s best for his family, and what he feels like he’s going to love. So, that’s all up to Tom. He’s a grown man, and he’ll be able to make that decision on his own.’’
Gronkowski did acknowledge, however, that seeing Brady, who will be 43 at the start of the 2020 regular season, in a uniform other than the Patriots would take some getting used to.
“It’s always strange no matter who the player is. If you see a player playing on a team for 10 years and [they] go to another team, it’s always strange at first,’’ said Gronkowski. “But, you know, everyone gets used to it after a little bit. It would definitely be strange, I would say, if that happens. For a couple of weeks it may be strange. But everyone adapts like any other time it happens.’’
Not everyone on the Fox team thinks Brady will testing the waters, however.
Former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson, who was recently elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman believe Brady’s work address will remain 1 Patriot Place.
“[Gronkowski] thinks he’s going to explore his options,’’ said Johnson. “I personally think he’ll stay right there in New England.’’
And what about Gronkowski returning for a possible reunion? He wouldn’t completely dismiss that scenario.
Gronkowski, who announced his retirement via social media, said he has “no regrets” about the decision or the timing of the decision.
“I knew that’s what I wanted to do,’’ he said. “I knew that’s where I was headed and no regrets at all, man. I’m having a good year.’’
By waiting until March 24 to call it quits, Gronkowski left the Patriots in the lurch at the position as some free agents were off the board by then.
“I felt like that was the time,’’ he said. “I had a couple — a month or so after the season and just felt like that was the time. It feels good to know that it was a good decision.’’
A possible return to action was a constant story line surrounding Gronkowski and the Patriots in 2019, and that may be the case for 2020, as well.
“I don’t know. I mean, I’m a young guy, 30 years old. I still love to work out and stay in shape,’’ he said. “I will never say a complete no because I love playing sports, I love competing. It’s still what I do to this day. No matter what it is, if I’m out playing basketball.’’
He then gave a blueprint for what it might take to get him back in pads.
“If I ever come back and I feel I have that passion, that strong passion for a continued time, no just one day or one hour, like, ‘Oh man, I need to play football again,’ ’’ said Gronkowski, who has trimmed down but not drastically. “I’m talking like a continued passion for about a good week or good month or so. Then I would think about truly returning to football. As of right now, I’m all set where I’m at, but I already know that I’m a young guy, and I still love to stay in shape and compete. So, if that passion, that fire, ever comes back, then that’s when I would come back to football.’’
Jim McBride can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.