Sunday’s Divisional Round playoff game against the Los Angeles Chargers could be the last home game of Rob Gronkowski’s storied career. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the big tight end will once again reconsider retirement at the conclusion of the 2018 season. Rapoport added that “people close to [Gronkowski]” openly wonder whether Gronkowski will hang up the cleats for good.
This isn’t the first time Gronkowski has openly contemplated retirement. Following the conclusion of the 2017 season, Gronkowski reportedly went back-and-forth on the idea of calling it a career without a new contract. Bill Belichick reportedly tried to trade Gronkowski, but the trade fell through when Gronkowski said he would only play for the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady. Eventually, Gronkowski and New England reached an agreement on a reworked contract.
Normally the league’s most dominant tight end, 2018 hasn’t been the best season for Gronkowski. Playing in 13 games, Gronkowski recorded just 47 receptions for 682 yards and three touchdowns. Back and ankle injuries clearly hampered Gronkowski, forcing him out of three games and clearly taking away some of his speed, agility, and explosiveness.
2018 wasn’t Gronkowski’s first experience with the injury bug. Since entering the league in 2010, Gronkowski has battled through ankle, back, and forearm injuries to go along with concussions and a torn ACL. His physical style of play invites these injuries, and Gronkowski has taken more of a beating than perhaps anyone else over the past nine seasons.
Regardless of when he retires, Gronkowski will be remembered as the most dominant tight end of his time. Throughout his nine-year career, the Four-Time All-Pro recorded 521 yards for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns. He did this despite playing a full 16-game season just two times throughout his career. Gronkowski’s best season likely came in 2011, when he finished the year with 90 receptions for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns. The touchdown total led the league, and the 1,327 yards was the highest in league history for a tight end. That record stood until 2018 when San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle recorded 1,377 receiving yards.
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