Yes, Rob Gronkowski is still retired. But the former New England Patriots tight end is still making waves in the NFL community.
And with the NFL honoring its 100 best players over its centennial anniversary season, Gronkowski was one of five tight ends selected for the NFL100 All-Time Team. But it wasn’t always positive for Gronk.
In college, he struggled to produce consistently and missed his final season at Arizona after undergoing back surgery. Regardless, he declared for the 2010 NFL Draft and his stock fell to a mid-second-round projection.
But on his pre-draft visit to New England, the team he spent his entire NFL career with until retiring last March, he didn’t exactly make the strongest first impression. Bill Belichick, one of the panelists on the NFL 100 running special, detailed an unknown story of the former tight end during that visit.
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A Shot in the Dark?
Gronkowski’s talent was evident coming out of college, but few teams were interested because of his injury history and his lack of numbers during his collegiate career. As a sophomore at Arizona, despite playing in just 10 games, Gronkowski had 672 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. He would finish his career with nearly 1,200 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns.
New England felt they could milk production out of him, clearly, and traded up in the second round to draft Gronkowski. Obviously, the risk exuded a high reward, though some draft analysts were forecasting a less-than-stellar career for the big tight end.
His NFL.com draft profile listed this as his weaknesses: “Durability concerns since he missed the entire 2009 season after back surgery and missed three games in 2008. Does not have great top-end speed and may not be able to stretch the field at the next level. Lacks the elusiveness to make people miss after the catch.”
While he did have his fair share of injuries as a professional, Gronk still managed to produce in a big way throughout his career. One of his biggest attributes was his blocking, something New England is clearly lacking in without him this season.
Will He Come Back?
Gronkowski is already ineligible to return for the 2019 season given he did not file for reinstatement in time. However, he has teased a potential comeback in 2020.
Gronk promoted a huge announcement via his Instagram last month, with most thinking it would involve him announcing his comeback for Week 14, as anticipated throughout the year. But in the end, it was just a sponsored “Gronk Beach” music festival in Miami during Super Bowl weekend.
During that announcement, Gronkowski did make a cryptic statement saying “maybe we call an audible, but just for this year.”
It would be a similar timeline to what Dallas tight end Jason Witten did, retiring to go into television before returning to football this season. However, Witten hasn’t exactly been a factor for the inconsistent Cowboys, making many worry about if Gronk will wind up having the same low impact next season.