Tthe New England Patriots had a suspicion that Rob Gronkowski could have left. The purpose still hurts. On Sunday afternoon, the fun-loving big brother turned the NFL superstar away from football, before his body betrayed him completely.
Gronkowski was loved because he was himself. He was an unrepentant meathead; the last sibling of football. Not even the many fans with contempt for the patriots could turn completely against the humor and idiosyncrasies of Gronkowski. This is a man who says he made his collegiate choice based on romantic choices rather than on the pedigree program, rejecting the status of the Ohio and legendary coach Jim Tressel in favor of Arizona. The weather was even better. "If you ever went to a pool party in Arizona, you'd understand," he told his father.
His intellect was a gag, despite his understanding of the game at the doctoral level and of economic common sense – he saved every dollar of his football contracts, living on sponsorship money, and there was always the suspicion that he was playing his stupidity to increase his earnings.
A Gronkowksi has been given a catwalk by fans, media and patriots rarely given to athletes in particular, it must be said, those African-Americans. He was considered more of an adult child than a team distraction. Just compare the coverage of Gronkowski's Gronk Cruise with the infamous boat trip Odell Beckham and New York Giant in 2017. Gronkowski was a clumsy, not very professional or with the phrase loaded "a thug".
There were the apparitions at Wrestlemania, without the knowledge of the maximum of the patriots; Kidey Tide Pod commercials; photos with porn stars and kittens; numerous ballads; lots of drinking and partying. None of this was important because it was large and authentic. And it must be remembered that he was a phenomenal athlete, the greatest at playing his position.
Gronkowski's two-man tandem with Aaron Hernandez changed what we thought of the closing position. It was a revolutionary, at the same time the best tight tight of the championship and an unattended receiver. His 17 touchdowns in 2011 remain the closest in a single season in history.
In the beginning, he played with grace and cunning, and an aggression that bordered on the violent. He was blessed with nimble feet and a huge frame. He stuck like a tackle. It was the foundation of the passage of patriots and the most devastating chess piece in the league: the securities were too small to block it; linebackers are too slow to cover it. And he did so despite having suffered a series of debilitating injuries. In total, Gronkowski has missed 29 games in his career with injuries. And he yet finished with the most touchdowns of all players between 2010-2019, 73 in total in 115 games.
To put it in perspective, Jimmy Graham played 22 games more than Gronkowski at the time, scoring eight fewer touchdowns. And Gronkowski had an average of three meters per reception. It is the only tight end in history with five 10-plus touchdowns. No one has inspired so much fear in the defenders as when Gronk went to the center.
The punishment that he distributed and received suffered its toll. Here is a list of injuries reported by Gronkowski in college and the NFL, excluding nicks that didn't stop him from playing or undiagnosed problems:
• Back herniated vertebral disc
• High ankle sprain
• Shooting of the inguinal hip
• Forearm fracture
• Forearm fracture
• Back vertebral fracture
• Torn ACL
• MCL torn
• Knee strain
• Pull the knee cord
• Pulmonary lumbar of the chest
• Back herniated vertebral disc
• Bruised thigh
• Back / ankle injuries
In the end, it was a human part, part of the machine, part of the scotch, held together by scrap metal while Belichick and the Patriots tried to squeeze the final drops from its size.
In 2018 there was a nixed trade. Belichick saw the end come, and he had an agreement with Detroit, whose general manager, Bob Quinn, is a protege of Belichick as was the upcoming coach, Matt Patricia. Gronkowski took over and threatened to retreat. The agreement was canceled before its completion. "Yes, it happened," Gronk told reporters. "Brady is my quarterback. … I wasn't going anywhere without Brady."
The Patriots developed Gronkowski's game in 2019 in order to avoid further physical punishment. He still went to the center, but less frequently. He turned into more than one blocker and rotated his repetitions. He hasn't lost a game.
There were points here and there in the regular season when Belichick would have seen if Gronkowski could still reach maximum speed. But much of his Gronkness was reserved for his final playoff run.
Gronkowski was at his best dominant during his final playoff stage, as a blocker and receiver. He faced the team's impetuous attack while taking out the Chargers in New England. When it mattered more, on the Kansas City road, Brady looked to his old favorite to enter the clutch in the AFC championship. And the couple again joined the Super Bowl, with Gronkowski dragging his last patriot reception, preparing the winning touchdown.
Now he leaves after nine years as an infallible Hall of Fame and three-time NFL champion. Longevity is overrated when the peak is as high as Gronkowski's. It reached in less than a decade what other great men of all times could not achieve in their footballing lives. He had nothing else to prove.
It moves away from the game that gave so much before it could take too much. This is an admirable decision. Now wrestling or acting or comedy or all the aforementioned. But Gronkowksi will always be remembered as the giant who redefined what it meant to be a tight end in the NFL and an athlete in the social media era.