Former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, named by many as the best tight end in the game’s history, is looking like he’s back in football shape. Gronkowski, who retired after winning the Super Bowl with the Patriots last season, has said he isn’t considering a comeback at the moment, but based on how he’s looking, he probably could suit up soon if he wanted to.
On Sept. 8, Gronkowski posted a photo on Instagram of him, shirtless, standing beside the Patriots’ six Lombardi trophies. The post came after a summer of speculation that Gronk has left football behind for good, having gotten too skinny to jump back into the game. Reports suggested the athlete was merely taking time off, and his fans insist he’s back in football form, but his future with the NFL remains up in the air. (If he’s really back, though, Men’s Journal totally called it.)
Gronkowski announced his retirement at age 29 back in March, after the Patriots dominated Super Bowl LIII. He’d played with the Patriots for nine seasons. According to ESPN, he blamed a quad injury he sustained during the game for his retirement: “It was one of the biggest, deepest thigh bruises I’ve ever gotten,” he said.
In interviews in January, he talked about the mental toll of the game as well. “It’s tough, it’s difficult,” he said. “To take hits to the thigh, take hits to your head. Abusing your body isn’t what your brain wants.”
Yet fans have persistently buzzed since his exit about when Gronk will make a comeback. He visited Gillette Stadium on Saturday night to catch passes with his teammates, promising that “news will drop” the following night. Sunday night, he fueled excitement more by presenting a Super Bowl banner for the Patriots before their game in Foxborough, MA, but as of yet, there has been no big announcement. Gronk diehards nevertheless expect him to return, especially since the surprise Patriots hire of Antonio Brown could mean that the tight end would need to spend less time on the field.
Given how recently he left the NFL, it seems unlikely Gronkowski will don a Patriots jersey again anytime soon. For now, he’s promoting CBD oil for athletes, and Gronk being Gronk, he’s probably occupied with endorsement deals, charity work, and late-night partying.