Soon after announcing his retirement from football in 2019, Rob Gronkowski showed a side of himself New England Patriots fans hadn't seen during his nine-year tenure in Foxboro.
The four-time Super Bowl champion broke down as he explained his reasoning for stepping away from the game.
"I want to be clear to my fans: I needed to recover," Gronkowski said during a press conference in August 2019. "I was not in a good place. Football was bringing me down, and I didn't like it. I was losing that joy in life, like, the joy. I'm sorry, but -- I really was. I was fighting through it."
Gronkowski spent the year recovering, partnering with CBD company CBDMEDIC, joining FOX Sports as an analyst, and winning the WWE 24/7 title at WrestleMania 36. When the 2020 NFL season came around and Tom Brady took his talents to Tampa Bay, Gronk decided to give football another try with his longtime quarterback.
One year and one Super Bowl ring later, the ex-Patriots tight end has rediscovered that joy he lost during his final year with New England.
“When I see him play now, the real Rob Gronkowski’s back,” Brady said during a recent episode of his "Let's Go!" podcast on SiriusXM. “The spirit of him which makes everyone love him as a person as a teammate, as a player, that spirit that he has in his eyes, about his joy of life, his joy of football is back. When I see him play the other night, that’s his most authentic self.”
Gronkowski was instrumental in the Buccaneers' Week 1 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, tallying eight catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns. Knowing how his favorite target felt toward the end of his Patriots career, Brady is thrilled to see vintage Gronk back to enjoying himself on the gridiron.
“For someone who’s watching him for a long time, he had it, it faded away,” Brady said. “He ended up retiring because he didn’t find the joy that he had. To see him regain it is one of the really great, satisfying things for me in pro sports.
"I wish the best for him every single day and every single time he performs because the kind of guy he is. If you’re going into battle, you want to go in with Rob Gronkowski on your side.”
Brady and Gronk will go to battle Sunday at Raymond James Stadium vs. the Atlanta Falcons. Of course, the matchup everyone is looking forward to will take place in Week 4 when the Patriots legends return to Foxboro for a Sunday Night Football showdown vs. New England.