The rumors of Rob Gronkowski returning to the New England Patriots this season will not come to pass.
After months of speculation about whether the Hall of Fame-bound tight end would abandon his early retirement and come back to the Patriots for the stretch run, the window officially closed at the stroke of midnight on Sunday. As CBS Sports reported, the deadline for Gronkowski returning ended on November 30, meaning he must spend the rest of the season out of football and any comeback would have to wait until 2020.
Gronkowski announced back in March that he was hanging up his cleats, leading the Patriots to place him on the reserve/retired list. Teams are allowed to take players off the list up until December, but Gronkowski decided to stay on the sidelines.
There was some good reason for speculation that he might return this year. In his retirement announcement, Gronkowski said that his body had broken down from years of physical play and a series of serious injuries. But as the months stretched on, Gronkowski noted that he was feeling healthier and stronger, and started to drop hints that he might be open to a return this year.
“I’d have to be feeling it big time to come back, it’s always going to be open in my mind,” Gronkowski said back in October, via CBS Sports. “I love the game of football, I love playing the game, I love being around the game. I even love watching the game… I’ll always keep the door open.”
There was also some pressure from Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who publicly pushed for the tight end to return. As Gronkowski was making his debut as a Fox Sports analyst on Thursday Night Football, Kraft pointed out that Gronkowski appeared to leave the door open to playing again this year in not completing the retirement process.
“We all love Gronk and I think the bottom line is he hasn’t put his retirement papers in,” Kraft said, via NFL.com. “So we can always pray and hope…. That’s a good academic argument that there is hope for us still with Gronk.”
It’s not clear if Gronkowski could still be considering coming out of retirement. While he has been open about feeling healthier and able to play again, Gronkowski has also branched out and taken on a number of business interests, including a partnership with a CBD company.