The inevitable is upon us; Super Bowl Sunday could very well be Rob Gronkowski’s final time suiting up for an NFL game. The first-ballot Hall of Famer and possibly the best tight end the league has ever witnessed has had his fair share of bumps and bruises throughout his miraculous 9 years in the NFL. The Gronk never takes plays off and gives his maximum effort every time he’s on the field, and with the amount of hits the big man has taken, he may be burnt out from it. Here are 3 reasons why I believe next sunday is the last time we see Gronk in action;
1. His Production Took a Hit This Season
When you watch Gronk play it’s obvious that his best days are behind him. Throughout the season their were many occasions in which it was obvious that the all-time postseason leader in yards and touchdowns by a tight end has lost a step and isn’t the same player he used to be. He went on an 11-week stretch in which he failed to record a receiving touchdown, which is unheard of when it comes to Gronk. He also caught over 5 passes in only 4 games this season, one of those games being his recent flash-to-the-past performance in the AFC Championship. In terms of a full season, this is the first year that he didn’t have either 1,000 yards receiving or 10+ touchdowns. Hopefully the beast has one more “Gronk” game left in him for Super Bowl 53.
2. His Prolonged Injury History
Rob Gronkowski’s injury history could be published as a book for how lengthy it his, but I’ll attempt to sum it up quickly. Here’s a list of the major injuries he has suffered over the years;
2011- High Ankle Sprain, Required Surgery.
2012-Fractured Forearm, Required Surgery.
2012- Fractured Forearm, Required 3 Surgeys including treatment for infection.
2013 Offseason- Surgery for Back Vertebrae Fracture.
2013- Torn ACL, MCL, and Concussion (on the same play!), Required Surgery.
2016- Back Vertebrae Disk Hernia, No Surgery.
Those injuries don’t even tell the whole story, either. There are a vast amount of sprains and tweaks he’s had over his career as well. Standing at 6’6 and weighing 265 lbs, Gronk’s opposing defenders are forced to tackle him at the knees because that’s the only effective way to get him down. With that comes knee injuries and scary hits that seem as if Gronk may be lost again for a season. The most notable hit I can remember was in 2013 against the Browns where safety TJ Ward took a low blow at Gronk, ultimately resulting in a torn ACL, MCL, and concussion. With someone as competitive and dominant as Gronk, it’s near impossible to remain the same player after injuries like these. At 29 years old, Gronk has been through more injuries than some teams suffer in a full season. With his future after football in mind, his injury past plays the biggest role in his decision to call it quits.
3. His Other Opportunities in Entertainment
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, there is a “strong possibility” that Gronkowski retires this offseason in order to pursue an acting career. We saw a similar trend at the conclusion of last season, where rumors had surfaced that Gronk may be headed to the WWE. His goofy antics and fun-loving attitude would make for a great new star for the WWE. Just picture watching him Gronk spike an opposing wrestler through a table and getting hyped up after. That would be some must-see TV. In all seriousness, Gronk made it clear last year that he has multiple options after football. He has also denied questions from reporters regarding his future for next year, as he stated that “he’s all in on this year.” All of these signs point into the direction of him retiring, but nothing will be final until after Super Bowl 53.
If it is truly Gronk’s last game ever, then there’s an argument to be made that he was the most dominating and fearful player in the league over his time span. In his prime teams wouldn’t plan to stop Gronk, though they would plan around containing him as opposing teams knew at one point Gronk would break out and have a major play in that specific game. His discography of accomplishments is utterly impressive, as he’s racked up 5 Pro Bowls, 4 First-team All Pro votings, a comeback player of the year award, and 2 Super Bowl rings. With that being said, hopefully Gronk’s farewell tour concludes with him winning his 3rd Lombardi Trophy.
-Adam Pasquale, Jr. is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @adampasqualejr