Rob Gronkowski 'Looks Like He Did 5 or 6 Years Ago,' Bucs HC Bruce Arians Says

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2020

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) during an NFL football training camp practice Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians said Thursday tight end Rob Gronkowski looks refreshed following his one-year retirement.

"He looks to me like he was five or six years ago," Arians told reporters. "... He doesn't have a gigantic elbow brace on. He's moving, running fast again and has great body control."

The Bucs acquired Gronkowski in an April trade with the New England Patriots after signing longtime Pats quarterback Tom Brady in free agency.

Gronk was one of the NFL's best tight ends throughout his nine seasons in New England. He made five Pro Bowls, earned four first-team All-Pro selections and won three Super Bowl titles.

Although his connection with Brady is long established, his workload in Tampa Bay will likely be far less given the Buccaneers' plethora of pass-catching weapons.

The New York native joins fellow tight ends O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate along with the dynamic wide receiver tandem of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin at Brady's disposal. The team also added LeSean McCoy to bolster a backfield led by Ronald Jones II.

Gronkowski, who could see his most extensive work in the red zone after registering double-digit touchdowns in five seasons, explained after joining the Bucs in April his body "started feeling good," leading to the comeback.

"My desire to play the game of football was coming back," the 31-year-old said. "And I knew that, by the time the season would be rolling around again, I would want to be back out there. So that desire, that passion, has lit into me, and I just felt like, in the last couple weeks, it was the right time to hop on before it was too late."

Arians' account backs up those comments as the University of Arizona product will look to hit the ground running in Tampa without the benefit of any exhibition games to get back up to full speed. The preseason was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Bucs are scheduled to open the regular season Sept. 13 when they visit the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to take on the New Orleans Saints in one of the opening week's most anticipated games.