The 32-year-old Gronkowski is 12 years younger than the veteran quarterback. And unlike Brady, Gronkowski has already actually retired once before. The five-time Pro Bowler called it a career at the conclusion of the 2018 season as a member of the New England Patriots.
After Brady left the Patriots for the Buccaneers during the 2020 offseason, Gronkowski came out of retirement after a one-year hiatus.
While Brady sounds confident he can play until the age of 50 — or even 55 — the veteran tight end is taking a lighter approach towards retirement. During an interview with Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports, Gronkowski said he’s taking it year-by-year.
“I’m just going year-to-year,” said Gronkowski. “I don’t know how long I really want to play, but year-to-year is a great way to do it. I’m in a situation where I can do that. It’s not like I need a long-term deal or anything. If I play good, then guess what? The team is going to want me back the year after.”
“I’m just taking it one year at a time and I’m going from there,” Gronkowski continued.
Furthermore, he leaves open the possibility that he might just retire on Brady a second time.
“I already retired once, and may retire twice on him — that would be unbelievable!” Gronkowski said. “If that happens. That’s always a possibility. … That would be funny. I may retire three times by the time Tom retires!”
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Gronkowski’s Injuries a Factor in His Retirement Plans
Gronkowski inked a one-year, $10 million deal with Tampa Bay during the offseason, which means he hasn’t committed beyond this year.
At the current moment, Gronkowski is banged up. During a Week 3 game against the Los Angeles Rams, the 6-foot-6 tight end suffered a broken rib, several cracked ribs and a punctured lung.
Due to the injuries, the Buccaneers tight end has missed the past three games with no official timetable regarding his return.
Earlier in the week on Tuesday, October 12, head coach Bruce Arians did say the tight end is making good progress from his injuries.
Gronkowski’s longevity will likely come down to two things — his health and how long Brady actually decides to play.
Despite his illustrious career, Gronkowski has suffered injury after injury during his decade-plus in the league. It was one of the primary reasons he had to step away from the game for a year. During his final seven years with the Patriots, Gronkowski missed 29 games, including half of the 2013 and 2016 seasons.
When Gronkowski initially stepped away from the game at the age of 29 back in 2019, he admitted the injuries took a toll on his mental health.
Via Mike Reiss of ESPN:
“I was not in a good place,” said Gronkowski. “Football was bringing me down, and I didn’t like it. I was losing that joy in life… I could play right now if I wanted to play. I’m feeling good. Physically, I could do it. Mentally-wise, desire-wise, it’s not there… I am very satisfied with where I am in life right now. I truly believe going through those tough times, nine years, off the field, on the field, has brought me to this point. I believe I’m on the right path in my life.”
Bucs Not Leaning on Gronkowski as Patriots Did
One of the benefits of playing for the Buccaneers is that they have arguably the most stacked offensive core in the NFL, even without Gronkowski. The team is on track to have three receivers record over 1,100 receiving yards (Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown) and Tampa Bay has gone 3-0 without their starting tight end.
In other words, the Buccaneers are not leaning as heavily on Gronkowski as the Patriots once did when the four-time All-Pro selection was clearly the team’s No. 1 option.
Secondly, it’s hard to envision a scenario where Gronkowski sticks around after Brady’s retirement. Since he was drafted by the Patriots back in 2010, Gronkowski has never played with another starting quarterback.
And when one considers that the 32-year-old is accustomed to winning — he’s a four-time Super Bowl champion who has never been through a losing season in his NFL career — it’s safe to say that if Brady calls it quits, so will “Gronk.”
Regardless of when he decides to call it quits, it’s clear that Gronkowski is truly on a year-by-year approach.