Returning to the NFL after a year in retirement isn't exactly like riding a bike and Rob Gronkowski seems to be realizing that at the moment as the new Buccaneers tight end has been shaking off the rust after sitting out the entire 2019 season. Head coach Bruce Arians noted recently that while Gronk is "more than ready" to play in a game the Florida heat is "kicking his ass pretty good" as 31-year-old is still in "New England shape." Despite the initial grind of getting back to true form, Gronkowski told reporters during a videoconference on Thursday that he is happy that he decided to make a comeback.
"Definitely no regrets. I'm here. I feel like I'm supposed to be here," he said, as transcribed by NBC Sports Boston. "That's in the past, and I'm here to play football now. I'm glad to be here. Going out there and just playing ball, it feels good.
"Let me tell you -- the first couple practices, it definitely felt a little weird. The game was really fast when I first got out there again. The defense felt really fast, and as time goes on, I feel better about myself being out there. My confidence keeps going up, the game is slowing down. I'm starting to pick up the offense more. Overall it's going well, but there's so much more I got to work on and so much more to improve on, but I'm really glad to be here."
The buzz around Gronk's comeback is gaining some steam as he continues to get back into game shape. Arians said on Thursday that the tight end looks like the version of Gronkowski we saw five or six years ago. He's moving faster, has no giant elbow brace and the stiffness that was apparent during his final years in New England due to multiple injuries seems to be gone.
"I'm feeling good. My body feels good, that's why I came back to the game and that's how I want to be moving," Gronkowski said. "I want to be moving like how I was back in the day. No doubt about that -- why else would I want to come back to the game and be moving like poop? I'm here to move and make plays. I'm here to block in the run game and I'm here to make plays in the passing game."
What will work to Gronkowski's benefit as he eases himself back into the NFL is that he isn't considered (or needed) to be the No. 1 receiving target for the Buccaneers like he was during his days with the Patriots. Because of the presence of receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin along with fellow tight ends O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, Gronkowski doesn't exactly have to be the Gonk of old right out of the gate. If he eventually gets there, however, it just adds to the arsenal of weapons that Tom Brady, who has a 123.9 passer rating when targeting Gronkowski, will have at his disposal during his first season in Tampa Bay.