It's anyone's guess whether Rob Gronkowski will suit up for 2022 or retire for the second time, but his former quarterback still wants to see him play, and has no doubt he can still pull it off despite 11 seasons worth of mileage on his body's odometer.
Tom Brady, whose move to Tampa Bay in 2020 drew Gronk out of a one-year retirement, believes the four-time All-Pro tight end has plenty left to give the game.
"I don't know. I certainly hope (he plays). I mean, I've watched him basically practice and play since he started in the NFL. He can certainly do it. It's a big commitment for all of us. It's a big commitment to keep playing. And I know when he's willing to make that commitment he's unstoppable out there as a player," Brady said on his Sirius XM podcast, Let’s Go, with Tom Brady, Larry Fitzgerald and Jim Gray. "So he'll have a lot of opportunity in every aspect of life because of who he is and his personality and what he brings to what he does. So I sure hope so. And there's a lot of players that are gonna be facing those tough decisions and really weighing the risks [and] the rewards to continue to play. But Gronk is someone that I love. He's an inspirational person for me, an inspirational friend, teammate. And I think football's a lot better when he's in it."
Gronk's longtime on-field rapport with Brady, which was never more apparent than when the two connected for a pair of touchdowns in the Buccaneers' 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV, will be a hard thing for the tight end to move on without. He admitted as much when Brady's retirement became official. But the Buccaneers remain hopeful, and general manager Jason Licht is unconvinced that the unrestricted free agent's future is necessarily tied to Brady's.
"I don't think it's going to be dependent on whether Tom came back or not from what I understand, and I know that Rob had an incredible experience here as well," Licht said last week. "He was a big factor in us having the success that we had. We would welcome Rob back with open arms, but we're giving him his space right now to decide on what he wants to do."
Gronk, for his part, isn't so sure Brady's retirement is for real anyway.
"The guy can play at any age,'' Gronkowski said Friday, per USA Today. "If he's 50 years old, he can still come back. I think he's going to come back but in a couple of years. The guy's a beast. He can play anytime.''
Gronk will be 33 by the time the 2022 season commences, yet his two-year production in Tampa Bay -- 100 catches, 1,425 yards and 13 touchdowns in 28 regular-season games -- leaves little doubt that he can still deliver downfield goods at a high level. The larger question is whether he wants to -- be it in Tampa Bay or elsewhere.
Brady, presumably with some other quarterback delivering the ball, hopes to see him give it a try.