In a span of five weeks, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers acquired arguably the best quarterback/tight end duo in NFL history. Tom Brady, a six-time champion with the Patriots, inked a two-year deal with Tampa Bay on March 17. On April 22, Rob Gronkowski, following a one-year retirement, was traded to the Buccaneers.
While he admits that Brady was among the reasons why he wanted to play for the Buccaneers, Gronkowski, Brady's teammate with the Patriots from 2010-18, recently said that the two never conspired to play with each other in Tampa.
"No, no, that actually was never the case," Gronkowski told WEEI when asked if playing in Tampa together was their plan, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. "As a player, you always want to see what it is like somewhere else. (I) thought of that before, definitely after playing nine years in the NFL and I also thought about it when I came out of retirement.
"This is an opportunity to go see what it's like somewhere else, to go see what it's like in the NFL on another squad. There's so many players that bounce around on so many different teams. I loved my time in New England, no doubt about it. But it was another opportunity that presented.
"But no, we never really talked about that before. It kind of just happened. (With) my retirement and him hitting free agency, it just kind of lined up like that."
Gronkowski, a five-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro and three-time Super Bowl champion, did recently say on CBS Sports Radio's "Tiki and Tierney" that he did speak with Brady once he had decided to end his retirement.
"I was feeling it again," Gronkowski said. "I was feeling healthy. I had that juice going again. When Tom and I talked for a little bit, and [I] just thought about the situation and how we could pull it off, everything went down as planned ... I thought it was a great opportunity that I couldn't pass on. It's just going to be fun."
While he has he desire to play again, Gronkowski said that he didn't want to return to the NFL "just to come back out of retirement." While a player of his caliber could probably be successful with most quarterbacks, Gronkowski wanted to -- if possible -- reunite with Brady, who thew him the majority of his 91 touchdown passes (including the postseason) with the Patriots.
"To gain a chemistry with a quarterback is not an easy task," Gronkowski said. "To understand where a quarterback's going to be throwing the ball, or a quarterback understanding where the tight end is going to be … that's time you've got to put in. That's a lot of work you got to put in. And we've put in work for nine years. We've built up major chemistry. So I just kind of felt like it was a great situation to continue with Tom if I could."
While getting a chance to reunite with Brady was indeed a major reason for his decision, Gronkowski said that he had other motivations for wanting to play in Tampa Bay.
"My mother lives two hours away," Gronkowski said. "I always wanted to play down in Florida. Tampa, they're a great team, too. They got a lot of great players."
Gronkowski's father, Gordon, recently told the Times that he believes that part of his son's injury-marred 2018 season was one of the reasons why he is returning to the game. While he was still able to make several big catches that helped propel the Patriots to their sixth championship, Gronkowski's stat line that season (47 catches, 682 yards and three touchdowns) were considerably lower than his usual output. But after a year away from football, a now healthy Gronkowski is ready to add to his laundry list of career accolades.
"I said it from the beginning that I wouldn't come back unless if I'm feeling it, unless if I'm feeling good, feeling healthy, and I'm feeling like I'm ready to go," Gronkowski said earlier this offseason, via ESPN's Jenna Laine. "And now this is the case. This is the time. My body 100% needed a rest. I didn't have that fire underneath me. But I knew I loved the game of football."