Rob Gronkowski Won't Retire, Will Return to Tom Brady, Bucs for 2021 Season

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJanuary 17, 2021

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) in action during an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Washington Football Team, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021 in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Daniel Kucin Jr.)
Daniel Kucin Jr./Associated Press

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski told NFL Network's Willie McGinest ahead of Sunday's NFC Divisional Round matchup against the New Orleans Saints that he intends to return to the team for the 2021 season. 

"Yeah, you've gotta [come back]," Gronkowski said. "I feel like this team was built to win right now. It was put together this year to win right now. It always pops up in your mind, you're thinking about the future a little bit. I can definitely see this team also having a lot of talent come back and have another successful run next year as well with me."

Gronkowski, 31, had a solid season in his return to the NFL, catching 45 passes for 623 yards and seven touchdowns. It wasn't vintage Gronkowski—in his prime, he had four seasons with 1,000 or more receiving yards and five seasons with double-digit touchdowns—but it wasn't bad for a player who returned after choosing to sit out the 2019 season. 

His addition proved critical after promising young tight end O.J. Howard was lost for the season with a ruptured Achilles. That left Gronkowski and Cameron Brate to handle the tight end duties. 

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Tom Brady has had a wealth of weapons this season between that duo of tight ends, wide receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown, and running backs Ronald Jones II and Leonard Fournette. While injuries limited some of those players at various points in the season, the Bucs still finished second in passing yards (289.1 YPG), seventh in total yards (384.1 YPG) and third in scoring (30.8 PPG). 

Gronk's decision to return will be a boon for the Bucs, who have the foundation of a championship team (and obviously could win a title this season). What it won't affect much is his Hall of Fame status. Had he quit for good in 2019, he'd still be heading to Canton. 

Now, he's just adding to an already legendary resume.