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Rob Gronkowski Officially Can't Return to Patriots This Season from Retirement

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorDecember 2, 2019

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - FEBRUARY 03: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots runs after making a reception against the Los Angeles Rams during Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on February 03, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Getty Images)
Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

Any chance that former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will play this season is now gone after his deadline to return off the reserve list passed, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

"It was expected, now official: Rob Gronkowski cannot return in 2019," Schefter tweeted. "His deadline to return this season was 4 p.m. ET Saturday, the last business day prior to a Week 13 game for reinstatement for players on reserve list. Gronkowski will be eligible to return again after Super Bowl."

Talk that the four-time first-team All-Pro and three-time Super Bowl champion would unretire after nine NFL seasons persisted in the preseason and regular season, to the point where Pats owner Robert Kraft even chimed in.

"We all love Gronk and I think the bottom line is, he hasn't put his retirement papers in," Kraft said Oct. 10 per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. "We can always pray and hope...That's a good academic argument that there is hope for us still with Gronk."

Gronkowski could hypothetically come back next season, but the Pats will move forward without the former star tight end in 2019.

The Patriots offense has taken a step back sans Gronkowski, with its 5.1 yards per play ranking 22nd in the NFL per Pro Football Reference. The Pats are also 18th in net yards gained per pass attempt. New England was no worse than 12th in yards per play during Gronkowski's nine seasons (2010-2018).

Gronkowski's absence isn't the only reason why the Pats are struggling offensively.

Of note, quarterback Tom Brady has lost some reliable weapons in recent years, including Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan.

Rookies N'Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers have flashed potential but are still developing. Of note, they both made key mistakes in the Pats' 28-22 loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday. The upside is there but may not be realized quite yet.

The strength of this year's Pats team lies within its No. 1 scoring defense, which has held all but two of its 12 opponents to 14 or fewer points this year. That has helped New England earn a 10-2 record and the AFC's No. 2 spot at the moment.

As for Gronk, he seems to be doing well in post-retirement life, serving as an in-studio analyst for Fox Sports and dancing with Venus Williams, James Corden and the Laker Girls during a Los Angeles Lakers game earlier this season.

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