Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht eagerly finds tight end Rob Gronkowski for a chat at the team’s practice facility regularly.
“Man, if you’re having a bad day, I suggest any of you just go spend a little time with Gronk. He just lifts you up just by being him,” Licht said per NESN’s Zack Cox. “He’s funny. We have conversations every day, and I look forward to it. I told my wife, ‘Can’t wait to go talk to Gronk at practice today.’ He’s just being himself. He’s very authentic.”
Gronkowski came out of retirement in 2020 to join the Bucs via a trade with the New England Patriots, which he retired from after the 2018 season. His role with the Bucs involved blocking primarily but soon regained his old pass-catching form and caught seven touchdowns this season, the most for him since 2017. He blocked more in the NFC playoffs on the way to the Super Bowl but also caught a couple long passes from longtime teammate Tom Brady.
“He loves the game and when it’s time to be serious, it’s very serious,” Licht said. “There’s a lot of talk of what Tom has done for this locker room, and it’s all warranted, but what Gronk has done for this locker room is equally as amazing. He’s just a great teammate a loves life.”
Gronkowski brings plenty of Super Bowl experience to the Bucs. He played in four Super Bowls with Brady and the Patriots, winning three of them.
Licht worked with Gronkowski and Brady in New England from 2009 to 2011 as the director of player personnel.
Brady, after he signed with Tampa in March 2020, called Gronkowski in 2020 to lure him out of retirement.
Gronkowski shared the story on the “Late Late Show with James Corden” in May 2020.
“I was like, ‘Oh man, Tom, I’ve been thinking about football a little bit’ — I’m just teasing with him,” Gronkowski told Corden per NBC Sports Boston. “And he’s like, ‘Oh.’ I could just tell, he’s getting all this excitement. And then I’m like, ‘Oh my mom lives down there (in Tampa) too, like an hour away, it’d be great to have a new opportunity.'”
“And then all of a sudden he just screams on the phone, ‘Rob, I just want you to come back and play with me!’ And I was like, ‘Oh all right, I’ll come back then, Tom. No problem,'” Gronkowski added.
The Bucs worked out a trade with the Patriots to acquire Gronkowski’s contract rights. He’s playing out the final year of his contract with the Bucs this season, and he’s indicated that he wants to play in Tampa for the 2021 season.
Towering Tight Ends
The Bucs-Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl matchup features two of the best tight ends ever in Gronkowski and the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce.
They have the most 1,000-yard seasons among all tight ends per Pro Football Focus.
Gronkowski has 566 catches, 8,484 receiving yards, and 86 touchdown receptions in nine seasons. Kelce has 612 receptions, 7,881 yards receiving, and 48 touchdown receptions.
NFL Network’s Good Morning Football cast members debated on which they would prefer in their prime — Gronkowski or Kelce.