Bucs GM Licht on Rob Gronkowski: 'He Loves the Game, and He Loves Tom Brady'

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistApril 27, 2020

FILE - In this Feb. 25, 2020, file photo, Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis. Licht spent the past six years assembling a roster talented enough to make the Tampa Bay Buccaneers an attractive destination for Tom Brady. Now the general manager with a spotty draft resume faces the challenge of acquiring additional pieces to help the six-time Super Bowl champion transform the franchise with the NFL’s worst all-time winning percentage into title contenders.(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

While there may be some who question Rob Gronkowski's commitment to football after his one-year retirement and foray into WWE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht isn't one of them. 

"He's an incredible teammate. I know—I was there," Licht told Peter King of NBC Sports. "He loves the game, and he loves Tom Brady. He's wired the same way as Tom."

Licht worked as the Patriots' director of player personnel from 2009-2011, the year Gronkowski was drafted. He's been Tampa's general manager since 2014.

The Bucs traded a fourth-round pick in exchange for Gronkowski and a seventh-rounder last week, bringing him out of retirement after a one-season hiatus. Gronkowski said his "fire is back" after sitting out the 2019 season. 

"I am beyond excited for this new chapter in my life," Gronk wrote in an Instagram post. "It's an opportunity I will certainly not take for granted. I said it from the beginning that I wouldn't come back to the game unless I'm feeling it, feeling healthy and feeling ready to play. Taking a year off was hands down the best decision I made, not just in my career, but also for my health and well-being, and I would do that all over again.

"And now my fire is back. I am grateful for this new chapter of my career. I'm pumped to get down to Tampa, meet my new teammates, work hard, have a blast doing it, and give it my all this season!! I'm back and ready to lay a smack!" 

Gronkowski and Brady spent nine seasons together in New England, with the former emerging as perhaps the greatest tight end in NFL history. His ability to stretch defenses with his receiving ability and block like an offensive lineman made Brady's job exponentially easier. It's no coincidence that Brady began to show real signs of slippage the first year he played without Gronk. 

The Bucs will be a popular Super Bowl pick, with Gronkowski and Brady joining an offense that already includes Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. This will be Brady's best offensive supporting cast since perhaps the 2007 undefeated season.