Had it not been for Tom Brady, this season's Week 4 matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New England Patriots would mainly be centered around Rob Gronkowski's return to Foxborough. After all, the tight end is arguably the greatest player in the history of the NFL at his position and ascended to that all-time status primarily in a Patriots uniform. However, because this also coincides with Brady's first trip back to a town where spent 20 years and was the key cog in six Super Bowl titles, Gronk will serve as the opening act for this upcoming spectacle through no fault of his own.
Even though he may not be the main attraction during these festivities, the tight end -- who is first all time in franchise history in receiving touchdowns and second all time in receiving yards -- does seem pretty jazzed up about facing his former team for the first time and reminiscing on the career he had there.
"That's going to be crazy. It's going to be pretty epic," Gronk told Casey Phillips of Buccaneers.com. "It's definitely going to be emotional for sure, I would say. I just had a great nine years (in New England). Probably the best nine years of my life. It was the beginning of basically my whole football career there. It's definitely going to be heartfelt when I go back. And I've just got to be prepared for that game. I've got to be prepared for every game, but especially that one. It's never going to be easy. It's going to be tough. It's going to be a good one. It's going to be different."
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Gronkowski retired from the NFL following New England's victory in Super Bowl LIII and sat out the entire 2019 season. Once Brady made his decision to leave the Patriots during the 2020 offseason, however, the tight end elected to come out of retirement and reunite with his quarterback in Tampa after a one-year hiatus. That proved to be a wise decision for Gronkowski as he, Brady, and the rest of the Bucs were able to go on and win Super Bowl LV.
Personally, the 32-year-old also enjoyed tremendous on-field success. He played all 16 regular-season games for the first time since his second year in the league in 2011. Gronkowski also totaled 45 catches for 623 yards and seven touchdowns over that stretch. In Super Bowl LV, he added six catches for 67 yards and two touchdowns in the win.
The Buccaneers were able to retain Gronkowski -- and the rest of their Super Bowl core -- this offseason, so when they do roll into Gillette Stadium, his former coach in Bill Belichick should have his work cut out for him once they kick off that epic head-to-head matchup.