Perhaps the most unique New England Patriot of the Belichick-Brady era, Rob Gronkowski has decided to call it a career. The majority of Patriots fans were expecting this day to come, but it was nearly impossible to be prepared for him to retire. Gronkowski truly is one of a kind, both on and off of the field; he is about as irreplaceable as it gets. 

Boston sports fans have obviously been blessed with a tremendous amount of success over the past two decades. Outside of Tom Brady and David Ortiz, one could argue that Gronkowski has been the next most polarizing athlete in the city during this time. His personality definitely helped him connect with the fans right from the get-go, especially since under Belichick’s control, New England has been known as a place where the players give little to no information and show minimal emotion. Gronkowski, on the other hand, was always in front of a camera and having fun. His teammates and coaches have always shown nothing but praise for him, and that really says a lot. Both Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick released public statements on Gronkowski’s retirement on patriots.com

Belichick:

“It was a pleasure and a privilege to coach Rob Gronkowski the past nine years. From his rookie year until his final season and through countless times in between, Rob was a major reason why we won games and championships. His elite combination of size, skill, intelligence, toughness and ability to perform in pressure situations set him apart. Rob’s impact on our team and organization was felt in many ways. In the ultimate team sport, Rob was a great, great teammate. His production spoke for itself, but his daily attitude, unmistakably positive energy wherever he went and toward whoever he touched will never be forgotten. Rob will leave an indelible mark on the Patriots organization and the game as among the best, most complete players at his position to ever play.”

Kraft:

“In the nine years that I have known Rob Gronkowski, I have never known him to have a bad day. He always has a youthful exuberance about him and is a joy to be around. As a player, he earned the respect of his coaches and teammates for his hard work, preparation, selfless attitude and the sheer dominance of his game. ‘Gronk’ quickly became a fan favorite and the most dominant player at his position for nearly a decade. I look forward to honoring him in the near future as both a Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Famer. As great of a player as he was, he is an even better person and ambassador of the game. Throughout his career, he made countless appearances in the community and there was no better remedy for hospital patients than a visit from Gronk. While Patriots fans are certainly going to miss seeing him play, he will be a Patriot for life and celebrated as a three-time Super Bowl Champion.”

Aside from how well-liked he was, Gronkowski’s stats over his nine-year career are nothing short of incredible. He has 7,861 career receiving yards, 80 career touchdowns, and caught 521 passes. In 2011 he had his best statistical season, in which he caught 17 touchdown passes, the most ever by a tight end. As far as accolades go, Gronkowski really made his mark in the NFL. He is a three-time Super Bowl champion and five-time Pro Bowler, won the 2014 Comeback Player of the Year and made the first team All-Pro four times. Although he was hurt during the 2016 Super Bowl against the Atlanta Falcons, Gronkowski played a huge role in the Super Bowls against both the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Rams. The fact that the final pass he caught was the one that put the Patriots inside the five-yard line to set up the game-winning touchdown makes this the perfect way to walk away from the game. 

Although he has made his decision, I still do not rule out the chance of Gronkowski coming back. On ESPN’s show, “Get up!,” Gronkowski’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said:

“He's still a very young man. It wouldn't shock me if he has a change of heart, if he feels great and he decides that he wants to play football. But this is just me talking. This isn't Rob. And I don't want to create any unnecessary expectations. Rob is a very unique personality. If the team was struggling or they needed him at some point next year, and let's just say hypothetically Tom Brady gave him a call and said 'Rob, I need you,' I wouldn't be shocked if he came back to play a few games.”

Who knows if that could actually happen, but it sure would be a great surprise if he still had something left in the tank. For now, all of New England should celebrate the great career that Gronkowski had with the Patriots. He his hands down the best tight end to ever play the game and will be missed by the fans. 

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