Rob Gronkowski is reportedly considering a return to the NFL in 2023 alongside Tom Brady, and while the seven-time Super Bowl champion would love to have his favorite target back, he'll respect whatever decision the veteran tight end makes.
Brady said, via Joey Knight of the Tampa Bay Times:
"Look, nobody loves Gronk more than me, other than probably his mom and dad and brothers.
"He's like family to me; he's kind of like one of my kids actually. Every now and then I've got to put him in timeout for misbehaving, for eating paste and stuff like that. Whatever he ever decides (about) his future, I'll be fully supportive."
Gronkowski sent Twitter into a frenzy on Dec. 21 when he posted that he was "kinda bored."
Shortly after speculation about his potential return to the NFL began, Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles told Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times that Gronkowski contacted the franchise in November regarding a possible return to the field this season.
"Gronkowski told the Bucs he had been working out. He and the club discussed several options, including signing the 33-year-old to the practice squad to give him a couple weeks to get back into football shape, although they were willing to add him to the active roster. In the end, Gronkowski decided to remain retired for now."
Although Gronkowski won't return this season to help the Buccaneers in their quest for another Super Bowl title, the star tight end hasn't ruled out a comeback in 2023, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
If the 33-year-old free-agent does decide to return next season, he'll likely only play for whichever team Brady is playing for.
When Brady left the New England Patriots in 2020 to sign with the Buccaneers, Gronkowski came out of retirement for the first time to join him in Tampa Bay. During the 2020 and 2021 seasons, the veteran tight end caught 100 passes for 1,425 yards and 13 touchdowns in 28 games.
In 2021, Brady and Gronkowski led Tampa Bay to its first Super Bowl title since 2003.
When weighing whether to return for the 2022 campaign, Gronkowski told TMZ Sports he would only return to play alongside Brady. He ultimately decided to hang up the cleats for a second time, while Brady opted to continue playing after a brief retirement.
Brady will become a free agent after the 2022 campaign, and it's unclear whether he'll re-sign with the Bucs or join a new team. He hasn't given any indication that he plans to retire despite a down year.
Once free agency hits, Brady and Gronkowski could end up being the best package deal on the market, not only for teams desperate for help at quarterback, but also for teams clamoring for a championship.