Rob Gronkowski reportedly frustrated with Belichick, has one condition for return

It's been nearly two months since New England's season ended in Super Bowl LII and we still have no idea if Rob Gronkowski is going to play in 2018. However, as things stand now, it seems that the Patriots tight end is leaning toward returning, but with one condition. 

According to ESPN.com, Gronkowski is 'pretty certain' he's going to return in 2018, but here's the catch: He's only willing to play for as long as Tom Brady remains with the team. The report does also note that Gronk hasn't actually made a final decision about what he's going to do. 

The fact that Brady is being tied to Gronk's decision tells you all you need to know about what's going on in New England right now. Things seem to be in slight disarray and everyone is being coy about their future, including Brady. 

Although Brady has said that he's going to play at least one more year, who knows what will happen after that. The Patriots quarterback has said he wants to play until he's 45, but he's softened his stance on that over the past few months. 

During an interview for the final scene of his Facebook documentary, Brady seemed to suggest that he might not be planning to play much longer. Will Brinson went over the interview last month (and you can read that by clicking here), but the biggest takeaway is that it's not very clear whether or not Brady is still happy doing what he's doing, which could lead him to call it quits well before he turns 45.  

Back in January, it was reported that there was some serious tension between Brady and Bill Belichick, but those aren't the only two people with issues in the Patriots organization. According to ESPN.com, Gronk is also having his own issues with Belichick. Apparently, by the time the 2017 season ended, Gronk was mentally worn down by "The Patriot Way," which is one reason why he started contemplating retirement. 

Remember, the Gronk retirement news kind of came out of nowhere at the Super Bowl when the tight end shocked everyone by casually admitting that he had actually been contemplating retirement for weeks

"I don't know how you heard that, but I mean I'm definitely going to look at my future, for sure," Gronkowski said after the Patriots' 41-33 loss to the Eagles. "I'm going to sit down in the next couple of weeks and see where I'm at."

Instead of a "couple of weeks," Gronk has now taken a couple of months. As a matter of fact, the only time Gronk has been asked about retirement this entire offseason came on St. Patrick's when he accidentally showed up at my bachelor party dressed as a leprechaun and said he was going to play for the "69ers," which didn't really help answer the retirement question. 

Besides being mentally worn down, Gronk has also been dealing with some serious injuries, including a concussion that nearly kept him out of the Super Bowl. 

One other thing possibly holding Gronk back from returning is the nature of his relationship with Belichick. Not only is Gronk feeling some mental fatigue, but the reverse also seems to be true. According to ESPN, Belichick has been frustrated with Gronk because he's not sure whether his tight end is "all-in" when it comes to football. ESPN also noted that Belichick wasn't thrilled when he became aware of Gronk's social media post to Danny Amendola after the receiver signed with the Dolphins

In a picture posted to Instagram, Gronk wrote, "It was a honor playing with ya the past 5 years, Danny Amendola. Thanks for all the hugs and memories! Stay lit, Be FREE, Be HAPPY." 

The thing that irked Belichick is that, apparently, it wasn't a coincidence that Gronk decided to capitalize FREE and HAPPY in his caption. The feeling around Boston was that Gronk was taking a shot at the Patriots and Brady played along, because he "liked" the picture on Instagram.

When you start getting upset about someone's social media posts, that's usually a good sign that maybe it's time to break up, and now, I'm not even sure if I'm talking about actual relationships or Belichick and Gronk. 

Of course, if Gronk returns to the Patriots and proves to Belichick that he's fully committed to football, then the two men will likely be able to bury the hatchet. On the other hand, if Gronk wants to keep playing, but not in New England, that could open the door for a trade, which could be highly beneficial for both sides. 

The Patriots would lose a disgruntled star, but they would likely be able to land some huge draft capital in return. Speaking of the draft, Gronk is probably going to have to figure out whether or not he's going to retire by then and that's because his decision will likely figure heavily into New England's draft plans. 

If Gronk doesn't return, he'll have a lot of options on the table. Not only are Sylvester Stallone and the Rock trying to convince him to be an actor, but several wrestlers are also trying to convince him to join WWE. The tight end also has a role in an upcoming Mel Gibson movie. 

Anyway, let's leave you with these words of wisdom from Gronk, himself. 

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

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