- Covered the Buccaneers since 2009
- Joined ESPN in 2016
TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians on Thursday said Tom Brady was the one who lured former teammate Rob Gronkowski out of retirement and was adamant that the team trade for him, despite having tight ends O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate on the roster.
“It was really Tom,” Arians told ESPN’s NFL Live on Thursday. “Tom brought it up to me, and I didn’t even think it was a possibility that [Gronkowski] wanted to come back. And [Brady] was adamant about, yeah, he really wants to play; he’d love to play with us. So [general manager] Jason Licht got the ball rolling with the Patriots, the conversation was there, and he’s working out, he’s in great shape and he’s raring to go. So we’re really looking forward to getting on the practice field.”
Gronkowski retired after the 2018 season, citing chronic pain due to injuries from nine years in the NFL. But he said he has fully healed and that his passion for the game has been reignited.
“I said it from the beginning that I wouldn’t come back unless if I’m feeling it, unless if I’m feeling good, feeling healthy, and I’m feeling like I’m ready to go. And now this is the case. This is the time,” Gronkowski said. “My body, 100%, needed a rest. I didn’t have that fire underneath me. But I knew I loved the game of football.”
Gronkowski has remained in good shape. He carries slightly less bulk from his days with the Patriots, dropping from a playing weight of 262-265 pounds to 250 pounds, which he said has helped his joints.
Gronkowski met up with Brady earlier this offseason for a workout, two months prior to joining the Bucs. It was then that he indicated his level of interest in returning and rejoining Brady.
Gronkowski still had one season remaining on his contract with the Patriots, which is why the Bucs had to trade a fourth-round draft pick for him. The Bucs also received a seventh-round pick in exchange.
Prior to joining the Bucs, Gronkowski had been pursuing a career with WWE.
Joked Arians of Gronkowski’s WWE 24/7 championship belt: “He better keep his head on a swivel. I might take it from him.”
Gronkowski said on his Gronk’d UP podcast this week that he’d be more than OK with that and even conjured up a storyline.
“Imagine coming out of the meeting room, and I’m like, looking to my left in the hallway coming out of the tight end meeting room, looking to the right to make sure no one else is out of the meetings yet,” Gronkowski said. “I think I’m in the clear. I start walking down the hallway because the other players are in the meetings. And all of a sudden, Coach Arians just comes out of nowhere with a flying elbow, takes me out and pins me, and becomes the 24/7 champ.
“That would be legendary. That would be an honor to lose to him.”
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