Rob Gronkowski, the dominant tight end who has been a vital part of the New England Patriots dynasty for nine seasons, announced his retirement from the N.F.L. on Sunday.
In a post to Instagram, Gronkowski, 29, thanked the team and its fans for drafting his “silliness” back in 2010 and acknowledged the uncertainty of what will come next for him.
“Thank you for everyone accepting who I am and the dedication I have put into my work to be the best player I could be,” he said. “But now its time to move forward and move forward with a big smile knowing that the New England Patriots Organization, Pats Nation, and all my fans will be truly a big part of my heart for rest of my life.”
Drafted in the second round (42nd over all) of the 2010 draft, Gronkowski used his massive 6-foot-6 frame to excel as a receiver and a blocker, playing a key part in two Super Bowl-winning teams. (He missed Super Bowl LI with an injury.)
Gronkowski — should this truly be the end — will finish his career with 521 catches, 7,861 yards and a Patriots-record 79 touchdowns. He was named to the Pro Bowl five times and was first-team All-Pro four times.
Coming into this year’s Super Bowl, there was talk that Gronkowski had fallen off as a player and would not be anything for the Los Angeles Rams to worry about. That idea was brushed aside quickly by Aqib Talib, a cornerback for the Rams and a former teammate of Gronkowski’s.
“Y’all haven’t put on shoulder pads and helmets and lined up against Gronk in your life. I do,” Talib said. “So believe me when I tell you, any day he can explode and go crazy.”
Just as Talib predicted, Gronkowski played a huge role in the Patriots’ win, with six catches for 87 yards. Two of his catches, which went for a combined 47 yards, set up Sony Michel’s 2-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, all but deciding the game.
As dominant as he was on the field, Gronkowski was equally larger than life off it, frequently standing out among the businesslike Patriots with his love of partying and his frequent sophomoric humor, all of which was delivered with an exaggerated wink.