Widely considered one of the greatest tight ends in the history of football, Rob Gronkowski decided to step away from the gridiron, only to return later. Why did he retire?
Rob Gronkowski retired in March 2019, stating that enduring numerous injuries throughout his career had taken a toll on his mental wellbeing. After a year away from the game, he returned to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020, reuniting with Tom Brady.
For more on Rob Gronkowski’s retirement from, and return to, the NFL, read on.
By 2018, Rob Gronkowski, still in his 20s, had cemented his claim to being one of the greatest tight ends in the history of the NFL, if not the single greatest. In his eight-year career with the New England Patriots, he had won three Super Bowl rings, been selected for the Pro Bowl five times, including four as an All-Pro.
Though his NFL career had been hugely successful, it was also blighted by injury. Gronkowski’s remarkable size and physicality also made him an obvious target for defenses and he suffered a great deal of wear and tear even by the standards of the NFL.
The most significant of these was a broken left forearm, for which he underwent several surgeries throughout his career, a torn ACL and MCL in the 2013 season, multiple concussions, and numerous other injuries.
In March 2019, after nine seasons in the NFL, Gronkowski announced on Instagram that he was retiring from football.
He later discussed his reasons for retiring, saying that his injuries on the football field had left him in a constant state of pain and, over time, this had negatively impacted his mental health and happiness.
He did say, however, that he felt he was still physically able to play the game at a high level but that he no longer had the desire to endure the pain.
Gronk’s retirement came on the back of one of his greatest successes, catching a 29-yard pass to set up the only touchdown in Super Bowl LIII, earning his third ring.
Gronkowski had been a lifelong professional wrestling fan and his 6’6″ frame and exuberant personality made him a natural fit to transition into wrestling after retirement.
He had already appeared in a WWE ring once before at WrestleMania 33 in 2017, where he entered the ring to help his longtime friend and WWE performer Dean Muhtadi, who wrestles as Mojo Rawley, to win a battle royal.
A security guard attempted to stop Gronkowski, clearly unaware that he was meant to be part of the show.
After retiring from the NFL, it was reported that Gronkowski had signed a contract with WWE to work a limited number of dates as an in-ring performer. He hosted WrestleMania 36 in April 2020, where he also won the company’s 24/7 Championship, a title that can be won anywhere and at any time by pinning the champion for a three count.
In March 2020, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed free-agent quarterback Tom Brady, whose contract with the New England Patriots had expired, ending a 20-year tenure with the franchise.
Brady encouraged the Buccaneers management to pursue a trade for Gronkowski, who had been his most trusted receiver throughout Gronk’s decade in the NFL.
The Patriots still held Gronkowski’s contract despite him being retired. They had previously agreed to trade the tight end away to the Detroit Lions before the 2018 season but Gronkowski had rejected the move.
The Patriots agreed to trade Gronkowski and a seventh-round draft pick for a fourth-round pick. Gronk, who felt rejuvenated physically and mentally after his year away from the sport, was keen to reunite with his friend and the only first choice quarterback he had played with during his time in the NFL, Tom Brady.