BOSTON (CBS) — Julian Edelman retired from the NFL last month. Rob Gronkowski can’t believe it.

The former Patriots tight end — who himself retired in 2019, only to return a year later with Tom Brady down in Tampa Bay — believes that Edelman’s departure from the league may only be temporary. In fact, if Edelman’s knee heals, Gronkowski expects No. 11 to return to the field.

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“I just wish the best for Julian to heal up. Obviously in his little press conference thing, he said he was going to go until the tires fell off, and he sure has. So I’m hoping he heals up. I want the best for him. I’ve been in that situation before,” Gronkowski said on the ESPN Radio “Greeny” show last week. “And I believe if Julian truly heals up whatever’s hurting on him, and he fully heals and feels good, I think he’ll be back. I don’t see why he wouldn’t be back eventually in the future.”

Gronkowski added: “Maybe a year or two away. Let me tell you, he’s just a competitor. So if I say if he heals up 100 percent, feels good, I think he’ll be back in the NFL.”

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Gronkowski said he doesn’t know what team Edelman will be on when he returns to the NFL, but that “he’s gonna at least take this year off. He’s got a lot going on. And he’ll be back I think if, like I said, he heals up 100 percent.”

Gronkowski made the comments on May 5, but they began to make the rounds online on Monday.

Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Obviously, Edelman was very serious when he announced his retirement. He tried to return from his knee injury last year — after undergoing a midseason procedure — but couldn’t do it. So for Edelman to tap out and take himself off the field shows that the injury is not a minor one. And as he approaches his 35th birthday later this month, recovering from such an issue to the point where playing in the NFL becomes a real possibility is far from a certainty. (Gronkowski was 29 years old when he retired for a year.)

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Still, Edelman’s old pals won’t let him go quietly. Tom Brady has stoked the speculation flame twice already this offseason, and now Gronk has joined the chorus.

CBSBoston.com Staff