The Tampa Bay Buccaneers failed in their quest to repeat as Super Bowl champions, falling three wins short of becoming the first team since the 2003-2004 New England Patriots to win back-to-back championships. Not all 22 starters will be back on the Buccaneers this time around, which leaves the door open for many players on the roster to ponder their future.
Rob Gronkowski is one of them. Flirting with retirement for the last several seasons (and actually retiring once), Gronkowski will consider if he'll return to the game in 2022.
"I'm really going to basically do what's best for myself in terms of the football world," Gronkowski said in his season-ending press conference Monday. "It's going to be a decision based upon of where I'm at in a couple weeks."
Gronkowski will take some time before making a decision like he has in previous years, even though his performance on the field hasn't dipped. An injury-riddled season caused Gronkowski to miss five games, but he still finished with 55 catches for 802 yards and six touchdowns. He also had nine catches for 116 yards and a touchdown in two postseason games. Gronkowski is fifth in NFL history for receiving yards by a tight end (9,286) and third in receiving touchdowns by a tight end (92).
Gronkowski turned his game up another notch in the postseason. His 98 catches for 1,389 yards are the third-most by any player in postseason history and his 15 receiving touchdowns are the second-most in playoff history.
If Gronkowski does decide to come back in 2022, Tom Brady's retirement decision won't play a factor in it. Brady has been basically the only quarterback Gronkowski has ever played with.
"There could be a scenario like that," Gronkowski said on whether he plays with another quarterback. "I'll never throw anything off the board."
The last two seasons have been a blast for Gronkowski, who took a year off from football before Brady convinced him to return. Gronkowski won a Super Bowl in his first year back and has played an integral role in turning the franchise around.
"It's been an unbelievable ride. There's no doubt about it," Gronkowski said. "My decision for coming back was definitely solidified being here. I was very happy to come back and play football. Just being a part of this organization from [the front office], to all of my teammates here, I have much love for everyone in this organization. Last year, we won the Super Bowl – which is unbelievable.
"It's unfortunate with how everything went yesterday, but it was still a very successful season, no doubt about that. To win the Super Bowl last season and get back in the playoffs this year, it's hard. It's a game of football. It's hard to win. It's hard to win one Super Bowl, so it's hard to even go to the playoffs. Just to be part of this team, I'm proud of my teammates, proud of my coaches and just proud to be a part of the last two years."