Bucs’ Discussions on Rob Gronkowski Return Take Surprising Twist: Report

Rob Gronkowski

Getty Rob Gronkowski, former tight end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England Patriots.

Rob Gronkowski’s attending the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ home opener could mean more than supporting his old team from a suite.

The Bucs have held “discussions about Gronk’s potential return,” according to JoeBucsFan.com, which also reported Gronkowski’s attendance at Tampa Bay’s 14-12 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, September 25.

“What that means is unclear, but Joe also has been told that there have been discussions about Gronk’s potential return to the Bucs but that has been a “sensitive” subject because free agent signee tight end Kyle Rudolph has yet to be activated in a game until today’s,” the website wrote on September 25.

Rudolph, a two-time Pro Bowler, signed with the Bucs for $2 million, per Over the Cap, in July to help alleviate the loss of Gronkowski. When Bucs quarterback Tom Brady recruited Rudolph, he recalled Brady telling him “we need you down here anyway” whether or not Gronkowski retires. Rudolph didn’t play in the first two games as a healthy scratch due to special teams’ needs. He finally played on Sunday, but after catching a 12-yard pass during the Bucs’ first drive, he became nonexistent in the offense.

The entire tight end position group has been a non-factor in the passing game. Veteran tight end Cameron Brate has seven catches for 68 yards and no touchdowns, with most of his catches and yards coming against the Packers. Rookie Cade Otton, who has a one reception for 4 yards, missed Sunday’s game due to the death of his mother, Sally. Fellow rookie Ko Kieft focuses on blocking and special teams.

Without a strong tight end presence, the Bucs offense hasn’t produced the big numbers of the past two seasons. The Bucs average 17 points and 310.3 yards per game, and the passing attack has produced only two red zone touchdowns this season — both passes to wide receivers.

Gronkowski’s Agent Leaves Door Slightly Open

Amid the urgency for the Bucs needing a playmaker such as Gronkowski, agent Drew Rosenhaus can leave only the slightest of cracks open regarding his high-profile client.

“I’m not aware of any change yet,” Rosenhaus told Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio for a story published September 25. “But you know what my thoughts have been about this all along.”

In June, after Gronkowski announced his retirement, Rosenhaus tweeted that he thought his client could return later this season. The agent reiterated that thought again in early September.

According to a September 2 tweet by ESPN’s Jenna Laine, Gronkowski doubled down on his status as a retired player. He even threw a retirement party in September. He also said he wouldn’t say yes to a comeback even if Brady were to call him, as Brady did when he lured Gronkowski out of retirement in 2020.

Football Still on Gronkowski’s Mind

Football isn’t totally off of Gronkowski’s mind, though. He recently poked fun at the college prospect known as “Baby Gronk” — Georgia tight end Brock Bowers. The Bulldogs star took a fake handoff 75 yards for a touchdown on September 24.

“Man, I needed a hand off like that during my time,” Gronkowski wrote on Twitter. “Lucky guy.”

Gronkowski, who spent most of his career with the New England Patriots, was known more for his power and size. He tallied 621 receptions, 9,286 yard, and 92 touchdowns in his 11-year career. Gronkowski also won four Super Bowls and made five Pro Bowls.

Injuries led to Gronkowski’s first retirement after the 2018 season, but he returned in 2020 to join Brady and the Bucs. Gronkowski had two productive seasons in Tampa Bay with 100 receptions for 1,425 yards and 13 touchdowns. His injuries during the 2021 season added up, and he decided to retire again the month before training camp.