Only in the eyes of Rob Gronkowski has his return to the NFL gone as expected. Gronkowski, arguably the greatest receiving tight end of all-time by the time of his first retirement, has struggled to catch passes in his first two games with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Gronkowski has just two catches for 11 yards and has been a non factor in the Tampa Bay offense. He's been targeted just four times. Being a year removed from football has affected his speed and ability to catch the football (when the ball actually does come his way), leaving plenty of questions about his return. But though he's struggling to make an impact in the passing game, Gronkowski is just glad to be back on a football field.
"I feel good. It feels good just to be out there and playing football again," he said Friday. "Going out there with the guys – we won last week, which was great. Just get that feeling of a win again felt good. Just going out, practicing throughout the week and preparing – it feels good to be out there just playing the game of football.
"[I] just have to keep working hard, though. There's always areas where I can improve big time, especially in the pass game a lot. It doesn't matter if you get a lot of passes called your way. If I'm not ready, then it's never going to work. Just have to be ready at all times and just improve my game both in the pass game and the run game. I can definitely improve."
Gronkowski had 521 catches for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns in 117 games with the New England Patriots from 2010 to 2018, ranking first all-time in receiving yards and touchdowns through a tight end's first 117 games. So it is a bit of surprise he hasn't been able to make an impact in the passing game, but that's not what he signed up for when he decided to come out of retirement.
"I'm a blocking tight end. I came here to block, baby," Gronkowski said. "Four targets is four more than I thought I was going to get."
Tom Brady was a big reason Gronkowski decided to come out of retirement in the first place, another reason why the future Hall of Fame tight end is having fun in his return to football. Gronkowski is just enjoying the daily ins-and-outs of playing football, which he missed over the past year.
That is helping him get through his "struggles."
"It's been going good. There's been times where you're working, you're grinding and you're digging deep to get through things. That's not usually the joyous time when you're digging deep, but that's part of football [and] that's part of what you signed up for," Gronkowski said on playing with Brady again. "But, many other times you're just going out there, playing ball and being yourself. It's going good overall. There's a lot of great guys on the team that are a pleasure to be around [and] a pleasure to work with – same with the coaches. All that is going good and we just have to keep putting the work in, week in and week out."