Leonard Fournette Shares Latest on Rob Gronkowski Recruiting Efforts

Rob Gronkowski

Getty Rob Gronkowski gets texts regularly from Bucs running back Leonard Fournette while still undecided on returning.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette opts for the soft sell route in talking with free agent tight end Rob Gronkowski these days.

“I might text him probably two times out of the week,” Fournette told reporters on Tuesday, June 7 at the Bucs’ minicamp. “Just checking on him. Naw, I’m not going to hound him. He’s an older dude. I want him to take his time. I hope he comes back.”

Gronkowski, 33, has been undecided about his future all offseason. Retirement or playing elsewhere looked plausible for Gronkowski when quarterback Tom Brady retired on Feb. 1, but Gronkowski didn’t follow Brady back in March when Brady unretired.

The most concrete hope of Gronkowski in a Bucs uniform this fall happened in April. Gronkowski told SB Nation’s Debbie Emery that he will only play for the Bucs if he returns to football.

Otherwise, Gronkowski has given mixed signals throughout the offseason. Bucs head coach Todd Bowles couldn’t offer more clarity on Gronkowski’s future either.

“Not from the last time — it’s still status quo,” Bowles told reporters.

Rob Gronkowski

GettyRob Gronkowski celebrates a touchdown with Leonard Fournette and Tom Brady in 2021.

Bowles previously addressed Gronkowski’s status in May and said there isn’t a timetable on the star tight end’s decision per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. Bucs general manager Jason Licht previously said the Bucs will leave a spot open for Gronkowski. The Bucs have $10.69 million in salary cap space to work with if Gronkowski returns to football.

In the meantime, previous teammates such as Fournette and Brady have kept up with Gronkowski. Brady notably had batting practice with Gronkowski in May, which went viral on social media.

The latest Bucs news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Bucs newsletter here!

Join Heavy on Bucs!

Akiem Hicks Eager For Gronkowski’s Potential Return

New Bucs defensive tackle Akiem Hicks hopes to play with Gronkowski for the second time in his career if the star tight end returns.

“I would love to play with him,” Hicks told reporters on Tuesday. “I would love to play with him. I know what he brings to a team.”

With that said, Hicks said he understands Gronkowski’s decision amid the physical toll of the game. Hicks played with Gronkowski and Brady in New England for 2015. Free agency led Hicks to Chicago in 2016 where he played the past six seasons before signing with the Bucs in May.

“One of the biggest things bringing me to Tampa is a chance to win. I would say that I’m happy to be here, happy to be back with Tom,” Hicks told reporters. “I know in that quarterback position you’ve always got a chance to win a game with a guy like that. That was one of my reasons for being here. Also, all the weapons that we have on defense.”

Few Options at Tight End

Tampa Bay enters minicamp extra thin on experience at tight end besides Gronkowski’s absence.

Rookie Cade Otton remains sidelined due to an ankle injury. That leaves Cameron Brate, Codey McElroy, and rookies J.J. Howland, Ko Kieft, and Ben Beise. Only Brate has substantial NFL snaps as McElroy only has three games of regular season experience.