BOSTON (CBS) — In January, an ESPN report detailed “a lingering sadness” surrounding the New England Patriots. That report focused mostly on Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft. But according to some new reporting by NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran, tight end Rob Gronkowski shared in some of that sadness as well.
With speculation on Gronkowski’s football future serving as the most significant piece of the Patriots’ offseason, Curran set out to “get the pulse” of Gronkowski’s situation.
“He didn’t enjoy himself in 2017,” Curran said on Boston Sports Tonight. “He did not have a good time, despite the fact that his body was in a better situation than it’s been in a long time — ever, maybe — and despite the fact that he was one of the most dominant players at any skill position. It’s starting to wear on him — physically, mentally, the atmosphere here in New England.”
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio speculated the day of Super Bowl LII that Gronkowski may retire after the game. Curran said that Gronkowski has been contemplating retirement going all the way back to training camp.
“This started in training camp. He seriously considered stepping away from the game in training camp. He had kind of had it,” Curran said. “At that point, his body wasn’t responding. He wanted to train a certain way; the team didn’t necessarily want him to train the way he wanted to train. They were at loggerheads. He was pissed. And the season played out, and by the end of it, I don’t think that some of the principle players on this team were really happy with the atmosphere and the climate.”
On the field, Gronkowski dominated in 2017. He caught 69 passes for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns in 15 regular-season games. In the playoffs, he caught 16 passes for 218 yards and three touchdowns. His season ended with an 11-catch, 116-yard, two-touchdowns performance in the Super Bowl.
Curran shared a conversation he had with Gronkowski in December, when the tight end said he was having the most fun he’s ever had while playing football. But that conversation ended up heading back to training camp.
“But he talked about how training camp was really embarrassing, it was humiliating,” Curran shared. “He couldn’t play, and he had difficulty convincing people that he should be able to go and train a particular way to get right.”
Given Gronkowski’s injury history dating back to college, Curran said that the player has been “contemplating the end of his career since before he came into the NFL.” And while the concussion he suffered in the AFC Championship Game led many to speculate that injury concerns might be driving Gronkowski’s retirement consideration right now, Curran said it’s not just a matter of health.
“First and foremost isn’t health necessarily. It’s all meshed together,” Curran said on BST. “The first and foremost is, if the climate was different, if he was having a better time, if he felt more valued — whether it be financially or personally — I think that we might not be having this conversation. But all the things rolled together have kind of hit a tipping point for him.”