Gronkowski, who retired during the 2019 offseason, stressed that while he is retired and that he doesn’t regret his decision, he’s still leaving the door open for a possible return.
“I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Gronkowski said. “I knew that that’s where I was headed, and no regrets at all, man. I’m having a good year. I felt like that was the time. 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.”
“I don’t know. I mean, I’m a young guy, 30 years old. I still love to work out, stay in shape,” Gronkowski 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, and I’ll answer this the same as I always answer it. If I ever come back and I feel I have that passion, that strong passion for a continued time, not just one day or one hour, like, ‘Oh, man. I need to play football again.’ I’m talking like a continued passion for about a good week or a good month or so. Then I would think about truly returning to football.
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Gronkowski Appears to Have Lost His Passion
At the end of his quote, Gronkowski uses that key word — “passion.” It would appear that outside of injuries, a big reason why the former All-Pro tight end walked away from the game was due to a loss of passion for the game of football.
The Patriots obviously have a big void at tight end. We saw that during the 2019 season when they were forced to start the 39-year-old Benjamin Watson at tight end. With Watson indicating he’ll likely retire — it’s also worth mentioning he’s a free agent this offseason — New England will have to fill the void in some shape or form.
If Gronkowski doesn’t come out of retirement this offseason — he has given no indication that he wants to return — the Patriots will either have to draft a tight end or sign a free agent to fill the starting spot.
Patriots tight ends combined for just 36 receptions and 418 yards for two touchdowns in 2019.
Patriots’ Potential Free Agent Targets
If the Patriots don’t elect to find a starting tight end through the draft, they can find an immediate one through free agency. The Los Angeles Chargers‘ Hunter Henry, the Atlanta Falcons‘ Austin Hooper and the Detroit Lions‘ Eric Ebron are just a few of the big free agency names at tight end.
In fact, it was cited by ESPN’s Kevin Seifert a couple weeks prior that the Patriots should be interested in Henry.
“Henry returned to full strength after a torn ACL cost him the 2018 season, catching 55 passes for 652 yards — both career-highs,” Seifert wrote. “The dynamic role of tight ends in today’s offenses suggests he will be highly sought-after if he reaches the market. The Patriots, in particular, seem like an obvious team of interest.”
The Patriots have bigger fish to worry about at the current moment. Tom Brady could realistically either leave the team through free agency or via retirement.
However, once the Patriots handle the Brady situation, their tight end dilemma needs to be solved.