Tom Brady is holding out hope Rob Gronkowski will come back for another season in Tampa Bay, but he told reporters Thursday he's not applying any pressure for a swift decision:
"I think it's just obviously totally up to him and we'd all obviously love to play with him, but he's got to make the best decision for himself and he knows that. Anyone who cares about him knows that he's doing what's right for him, which is trying to figure it out. We don't have training camp for about six weeks so whatever he's got to do to figure it out and I think we'll be hopeful if he does and if he doesn't we still got to go out there and figure out what to do."
Gronkowski has been noncommittal about returning for a 12th NFL season and is currently a free agent. In March, he seemed to hint he was leaning toward returning but joked he wanted to give Brady "a little scare."
Gronkowski sat out the 2019 season as part of a one-year retirement before joining Brady in Tampa the following year. While he hasn't been as dominant as he was during his Patriots prime, Gronkowski was well on his way to a Pro Bowl campaign last season before injuries cost him five games. He recorded 55 receptions for 802 yards and six touchdowns, earning a 79.5 overall grade from Pro Football Focus.
The overall wear and tear on Gronkowski's body has been a major factor in his hesitation to continue his Hall of Fame career. He estimated in 2019 that he's suffered 20 concussions during his football career, along with numerous surgeries and other ailments that did not require going under the knife.
Brady briefly retired in February before announcing he would come back for the 2022 season a month-and-a-half later. He's set to become the second-oldest quarterback in NFL history this season, topped only by George Blanda, who played until he was 48.
Unlike Blanda, Brady is still at the top of his game and putting up MVP-caliber numbers as he approaches age 45. Brady led the NFL with 5,316 yards and 43 touchdowns against 12 interceptions last season; his yardage total ranks third on the single-season all-time list.