- Rob Gronkowksi retired from pro football earlier this year after nine seasons.
- He received generally good reviews for his NFL broadcasting debut.
- Statements from Patriots owner Robert Kraft are fueling speculation of a Gronkowski comeback.
When we last heard from former New England Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski it was right after he announced his retirement from the NFL. At that time, there was considerable media speculation that Gronk (along with UFC fighter Conor McGregor) were bound for a pro wrestling career with the WWE. We quickly posted odds and an article hoping to disabuse the fans and the sporting media of the belief that Gronk or McGregor would appear in a WWE ring anytime soon.
On Thursday night, Gronkowski made his debut as a pregame analyst on FOX Thursday Night Football. The general opinion is that he did a decent job and I concur. Having done some TV and radio broadcasting there’s nothing that can adequately prepare you for being in front of a live mic and/or camera. Gronk wasn’t flawless and smooth but he’s such a charismatic and generally likeable guy he doesn’t have to be. Curiously, some of the most scathing predictions about Gronk as a broadcaster have come from the Boston area media including a suggestion that he’ll be ‘Jersey Shore bad‘. Not even close. With the exception of a strange comparison of Patriots’ wide receiver Julian Edelman to a squirrel it was a solid first effort. According to the New York Post, the immediate plan is to use Gronk mostly in taped segments. The guy really shines on live television so look for FOX to change course on that strategy.
GRONK COMEBACK SPECULATION BEGINS ANEW
Even though Gronk was at his ‘first day in a new job’ everyone still wants to talk about his previous position as a tight end for the New England Patriots. He addressed speculation of a comeback in his FOX debut and he definitely hasn’t ruled out the idea of returning to the NFL though he offered a number of qualifications:
“I would have to be feeling it, feeling it big time to come back. It’s always going to be open in my mind. I love the game of football. I love playing the game, I love being around the game, I even love watching the game of football now.”
He concluded by affirming that”I’ll always keep it open. I’ll always keep the door open.” Much of the Gronk comeback talk is simply ‘wishful thinking’ among Pats fans who are acutely aware that the tight end position has been an issue this year and might be more of one going forward. The Ben Watson experiment didn’t work out and if Matt LaCosse continues to struggle with injuries New England might be down to one healthy tight end on the roster. Several times since Gronkowski’s retirement there have been reports that a ‘personal appeal’ from legendary quarterback Tom Brady might be the only thing to get him back in the near term.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft really stirred up the ‘Gronk comeback’ talk with these comments on the NFL Network prior to Thursday’s game:
“We all love Gronk and I think the bottom line is he hasn’t put his retirement papers in. So we can always pray and hope…That’s a good academic argument that there is hope for us still with Gronk.”
THE MENTAL AND PHYSICAL TOLL OF LIFE IN THE NFL
Despite the renewed media buzz about a Gronk comeback there’s little to suggest that he’s seriously considering a return to the NFL anytime soon. He doesn’t need the money–he famously hasn’t spent any of the money he earned playing in the NFL so he’s got $54 million or so in the bank. More significantly, he was mentally and physically a wreck when he left the game. We earlier compared Gronkowski’s career injury list to that of iconic motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel. This comparison was made *before* the September 12 interview where Gronk talked more about the physical toll of pro football:
“I had nine surgeries, probably had, like, 20 concussions in my life, no lie. I remember 5 blackout ones.”
He then made clear that the mental state necessary for a return to the NFL isn’t there:
“But mentally, it’s not there. … If I’m just enjoying my life… maybe never.”
Gronkowski has been adding to his bankroll promoting CBD as a pain management tool. It’s obviously important to keep in mind that Abacus Health is signing his checks but that doesn’t negate the revelation that he was in ‘near constant pain’:
“I was in near constant pain and needed to make a change. These products have helped me safely manage pain better than anything else I’ve tried.”
Sportscasting.com made a salient point–CBD is on the NFL’s ‘banned substance’ list. He’d have to not ‘test positive’ for CBD nor could he use it therapeutically as an active NFL player.
He talked more about the mental toll in late August noting that the game had caused him to ‘lose joy in life’:
“I want to be clear to my fans … I was not in a good place. Football was bringing me down.”
Given the obvious mental and physical downside of a comeback I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for Tom Brady to make a ‘personal appeal’. He doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who would ask a former teammate to put his health and psychological well being at risk just to get a shot at a seventh Super Bowl ring. It wouldn’t surprise me if Gronk *did* approach Brady that his quarterback would try to dissuade him.
There’s also the practical concern of physical conditioning. Gronk is in great shape right now but he’s been all over the media talking about his weight loss. He played at 265 but is down to 245. Most NFL tight ends weigh in at 250+. Were he to contemplate a comeback he’d have to start be drastically altering his diet and training to bulk up to 265 once again.
Don’t expect to see Gronk back in the NFL this season–if ever. Here are the official SPORTSINSIDER.COM odds on a Rob Gronkowski comeback this season and next:
ROB GRONKOWSKI NFL COMEBACK BETTING ODDS
WILL ROB GRONKOWSKI PLAY IN THE NFL THIS SEASON?
WILL ROB GRONKOWSKI BE ON A NFL ROSTER AT THE START OF TRAINING CAMP 2020?
WILL ROB GRONKOWSKI PLAY IN THE NFL DURING THE 2020 SEASON?
WILL ROB GRONKOWSKI BE A NFL BROADCASTER ON OPENING DAY OF THE 2020 NFL SEASON?