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Patriots Legend Rob Gronkowski Open to NFL Return If He's Fully Recovered

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistAugust 27, 2019

NFL player Rob Gronkowski, of the New England Patriots, arrives at the ESPY Awards on Wednesday, July 10, 2019, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Jordan Strauss/Associated Press

Former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski left the door open for an eventual return to football during a press conference Tuesday.

According to NESN's Doug Kyed, Gronkowski does not intend to come back in the immediate future but sees it as a possibility down the road if he can get healthy:

Doug Kyed @DougKyed

Rob Gronkowski just left the door wide open for a return to football. He said if he's feeling better and recovered in six months, two years, he'll return to the sport. Said he can't see a return in the foreseeable future in the next week or month.

With regard to playing football, he said: "Physically, I can do it. Mentally, desire-wise, I can't."

Anthony Sulla-Heffinger of Verizon Media noted that even if he can get back in the right state of mind to play football, he won't necessarily make a comeback if he is enjoying life in retirement.

Gronkowski retired following the 2018 season just ahead of his 30th birthday after battling myriad injuries in previous years, including back, knee and quad ailments.

The potential future Hall of Famer noted that a quad injury suffered in the Pats' Super Bowl LIII win over the Los Angeles Rams last season caused him a great deal of pain, which prompted him to turn to CBD oil for relief:

Dan Roche @RochieWBZ

Gronk said he couldn’t sleep for even 20 minutes a night for 4 weeks after injuring his quad in SB53. Was in so much pain. Credits CBD for his pain relief saying, “most safe alternative way players can deal with pain”. Says only when his mind is healed he may go back to NFL https://t.co/igRyAqwwxl

For much of the press conference, Gronkowski discussed the benefits of CBD and expressed his hope that the major American sports leagues, including the NFL, will allow players to use it for pain relief in the future:

News 4, WIVB-TV @news4buffalo

"I was not in a good place" says @RobGronkowski of his physical and mental state when he decided to retire. He says his recovery was boosted by CBD, a compound derived from hemp, and says he'll be using his profile to lobby sports leagues. CBD was introduced to him by his dad.🔊 https://t.co/6TGU2afQ4B

According to WBZ's Kristina Rex, Gronk was in tears while addressing the Patriots fans and explaining why he needed to step away from football: "I love all my fans. I love Patriots fans ... I want to be clear to my fans: I needed to recover. I was not in a good place. Football was bringing me down."

As things stand, Gronk's NFL career lasted only nine seasons, but no tight end in football was as consistently dominant as him during his time in the league.

In 115 regular-season games, Gronkowski registered 521 receptions for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns. He ranks fourth in Patriots history in catches, second in receiving yardage and first in receiving touchdowns.

The five-time Pro Bowler and four-time First Team All-Pro was also a force during the playoffs with 81 grabs for 1,163 yards and 12 touchdowns in 16 postseason games. His performances played a significant role in the Pats' three Super Bowl wins during his career.

Gronk was not the same dominant player last season. Injuries limited him to 13 regular-season games, and he finished with 47 receptions for 682 yards and three touchdowns.

With the Pats struggling to find a suitable replacement at tight end since Gronk's retirement, there has been constant speculation about a possible return.

Of the tight ends on New England's roster, Benjamin Watson is suspended for the first four games of the 2019 regular season and Lance Kendricks is suspended for the first game. Beyond them, the quartet of Eric Saubert, Stephen Anderson, Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo has experienced little NFL success.

Getting even a shell of the former Gronk back would be a major coup for the Pats, but his comments suggest that a return in 2019 may not be in the cards.