Rob Gronkowski set to retire from football after nine seasons with the Patriots

The football party is officially over for Rob Gronkowski. After mulling it over for nearly a month, Gronk has made the decision to retire. 

The Patriots tight end made the somewhat surprising announcement in a lengthy Instagram post where he thanked multiple people.

"It all started at 20 years old on stage at the NFL draft when my dream came true, and now here I am about to turn 30 in a few months with a decision I feel is the biggest of my life so far," Gronk wrote. "I will be retiring from the game of football today."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick released a statement on Sunday, calling Gronk one of the "most complete players at his position," which is about the highest compliment you can get from Belichick. 

"Rob's impact on our team and organization was felt in many ways. In the ultimate team sport, Rob was a great, great teammate," Belichick said. "His production spoke for itself, but his daily attitude, unmistakably positive energy wherever he went and toward whoever he touched will never be forgotten. Rob will leave an indelible mark on the Patriots organization and the game as among the best, most complete players at his position to ever play."

Gronk had thought about retiring after the 2017 season, but after mulling it over for nearly two months, he decided to play one more season, which ended up being a struggle for the 6-foot-6 tight end. In 2018, Gronk put up some of the worst numbers of his career while battling through multiple injuries that caused him to miss a total of three games. The Patriots tight end caught just three touchdown passes during the regular season, which tied a career low. 

That being said, Gronk will absolutely be going out on top. Although he had a rough regular season, Gronk ended up playing a key role in the Patriots' playoff run that ended with the team beating the Rams 13-3 in Super Bowl LIII. 

In the Super Bowl win, Gronk caught six passes for 87 yards, including a 29-yard reception in the second half that will go down as the final catch of his career. The fourth quarter reception gave the Patriots the ball at the Rams' 2-yard line, leading to the only touchdown of the game for either team. 

During his nine-year career, Gronk won a total of three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots. He was also voted to the Pro Bowl in five of his nine seasons in the NFL while being named an All-Pro a total of four times. 

Gronk's career started in 2010 when the Patriots selected him in the second-round of the NFL Draft. Although he only played nine seasons, Gronk should be a shoo-in to reach the Hall of Fame once he's eligible in five years. 

During his career, Gronk made a name for himself by putting up big numbers, by showing off his big touchdown spike and by showing off his big personality. When he wasn't kicking people out of the club -- that's Gronk speak for pulling off a vicious block -- he was breaking NFL record after NFL record. 

Not only does he have more Super Bowl receptions than any other tight end in NFL history (23), but he's also tied for the second-most receiving touchdowns of any player in NFL playoff history (12). When it comes to the postseason, no tight end was better than Gronk, who will finish his career holding the tight end postseason record for most receptions (81), most receiving yards (1,163) and most receiving touchdowns (12). 

Not to mention, Gronk will also finish his career with the most receiving yards per regular season game (68.4) of any tight end in NFL history. Gronk's career will end with 521 catches for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdown receptions. In something that only Gronk will be able to fully appreciate, he'll also end his career with an average of 0.69 touchdowns per game. 

Gronk was a generational talent who redefined the position. Not only was he one of the best pass-catching tight ends in NFL history, but he was also one of the best blocking tight ends to ever play. 

One person who definitely thinks Gronk will be in the Hall of Fame is Patriots owner Robert Kraft. 

"In the nine years that I have known Rob Gronkowski, I have never known him to have a bad day," Kraft said in a statement. "Gronk quickly became a fan favorite and the most dominant player at his position for nearly a decade. I look forward to honoring him in the near future as both a Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Famer."

In his retirement announcement, Gronk thanked both Kraft and Belichick for taking a chance on him. 

"I am so grateful for the opportunity that Mr. Kraft and Coach Belichick gave to me when drafting my silliness in 2010," Gronk wrote. "My life experiences over the last 9 years have been amazing both on and off the field. The people I have meet, the relationships I have built, the championships I have been a part of, I just want to thank the whole New England Patriots organization for every opportunity I have been giving and learning the great values of life that I can apply to mine." 

Gronk also made sure to thank everyone who appreciated him for his party-loving personality, a personality I witnessed first-hand when he accidentally showed up at my bachelor party dressed like a leprechaun in March 2018. 

Most Patriots fans loved Gronk's outgoing personality, and for that, he was thankful. 

"Thank you for everyone accepting who I am and the dedication I have put into my work to be the best player I could be," Gronk wrote. "But now its time to move forward and move forward with a big smile knowing that the New England Patriots Organization, Pats Nation, and all my fans will be truly a big part of my heart for rest of my life. It was truly an incredible honor to play for such a great established organization and able to come in to continue and contribute to keep building success."

With Gronk retiring, the Patriots will now have to do the impossible: Not will they have to replace his voice in the locker room, but they're going to have to try and replace his production on the field. 

If you're wondering what's next for Gronk, don't be surprised if he ends up doing movies or making a career in the WWE, two things that he has contemplated doing over the past few years.   

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It all started at 20 years old on stage at the NFL draft when my dream came true, and now here I am about to turn 30 in a few months with a decision I feel is the biggest of my life so far. I will be retiring from the game of football today. I am so grateful for the opportunity that Mr. Kraft and Coach Belichick gave to me when drafting my silliness in 2010. My life experiences over the last 9 years have been amazing both on and off the field. The people I have meet, the relationships I have built, the championships I have been apart of, I just want to thank the whole New England Patriots organization for every opportunity I have been giving and learning the great values of life that I can apply to mine. Thank you to all of Pats Nation around the world for the incredible support since I have been apart of this 1st class organization. Thank you for everyone accepting who I am and the dedication I have put into my work to be the best player I could be. But now its time to move forward and move forward with a big smile knowing that the New England Patriots Organization, Pats Nation, and all my fans will be truly a big part of my heart for rest of my life. It was truly an incredible honor to play for such a great established organization and able to come in to continue and contribute to keep building success. To all my current and past teammates, thank you for making each team every year special to be apart of. I will truly miss you guys. Cheers to all who have been part of this journey, cheers to the past for the incredible memories, and a HUGE cheers to the uncertain of whats next.

A post shared by Rob Gronkowski (@gronk) on

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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