Gronk opens up on college back injury, retirement thoughts


Gronk opens up on college back injury, retirement thoughts

Rob Gronkowski -- unanimous All-Pro tight end, Super Bowl champion, lover of parties -- was almost never known to the world at large. 

As he explains in an excerpt of his new book "It's Good to Be Gronk," which was posted on on Wednesday, he nearly retired after suffering a back injury while working out at the University of Arizona.

Not only had a ruptured disk made life in general difficult for Gronkowski, who said that his legs felt as though they weighed "500 pounds each" due to nerve damage that resulted from the ruptured disk, but his father had purchased an insurance policy that would have paid Gronkowski $4 million before he graduated college if he opted to retire from football for health reasons.

Doctors told Gronkowski that he could rehab in order to fix his back, or he could have surgery, which would eliminate his chances of playing his junior season for the Wildcats in 2009. 

"Now I had to hope that by working crazy hard in rehab, I could fix my back in time to play that season," Gronkowski wrote. "There was another option, though: I could retire and collect the $4 million insurance, tax-free, at the age of 19 . . . but that would mean I couldn’t play football anymore. I did the calculations, and at four percent annual interest I could make $160,000 a year without touching the $4 million principal. But I didn’t want the easy money. I wanted to earn it, playing football. Maybe a lot of people would take the money and run, but I looked at it as quitting. I was happy playing football and didn’t want to give that up. So I decided to try physical therapy. It was a long shot, but I had to try."

It didn't work. In Arizona's second week of practice, Gronkowski tried to run a few routes and undid whatever progress he had made during his rehab. He later went under the knife, and was forced to watch his teammates play the season without him.

"During the first three weeks after surgery, I couldn’t do anything but walk to class and sit in a recliner," Gronkowski wrote. I was fragile, and every wrong move sent sharp pain up my spine and down my legs. I was supposed to be the man, the best tight end in college football. Instead I was facing the possibility that I might never have full use of my legs again no matter how hard I tried."

By mid-December Gronkowski was making progress again and doing some running. It was then that he was once again faced with a difficult decision. He could retire and collect the $4 million, stay in school for his senior season, or enter the draft as a junior, which he had planned on doing with his older brother and Arizona teammate Chris Gronkowski.

Because juniors had to declare for the draft by mid-January, Gronkowski had a month in order to try to figure out whether or not he was in good enough shape to be selected by an NFL club. Trainers told him that he could potentially recoup enough athleticism to be considered an average athlete at his position in the NFL. Potentially, they told him, he could make a full recovery and be an above-average athlete at tight end. 

That was enough for Gronkowski. 

He turned down the insurance policy, declared for the draft, and was taken in the second round by the Patriots, celebrating wildly with his family after hearing his name called. 

"We hooted and hollered until the Patriots called back and told me to get off the stage," Gronkowski wrote. "Right then and there we let the NFL and the Patriots know you better watch out! The Gronks are coming to town, and we are going to bring it!"

Former Bengal, Patriot Marquis Flowers opens up on the 'We're on to Cincinnati' game

Former Bengal, Patriot Marquis Flowers opens up on the 'We're on to Cincinnati' game

The New England Patriots weren't exactly in a great spot heading into Week 5 of the 2014 NFL season. The team was only 2-2 and was coming off a crushing 41-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football.

In that game, Tom Brady didn't look like his usual self. He had two picks, just 159 passing yards, and one touchdown pass that came when the team was already down 27-0. He was replaced late by Jimmy Garoppolo, who looked solid on the field. That led some to wonder if the Patriots dynasty was coming to an end.

Famously, after the game, Bill Belichick answered every question posed about the game with one simple response. "We're on to Cincinnati." The press conference went viral and put a spotlight on the Patriots' Sunday night clash with the Cincinnati Bengals.

That game ended up defining the season. The Patriots bounced back by smashing the Bengals by a final score of 43-17. Brady looked as strong as ever, and that was the first step for the Patriots to get back onto the Super Bowl path.

At least, that's how former Bengals linebacker Marquis Flowers remembers it. On Twitter, Flowers shared a brief memory of the game, including what his then-defensive coordinator said.

So, yeah. Clearly that type of hype up didn't work, especially since the Patriots were so desperate for a win at the time. And the "demise of the Patriots" storyline was clearly overblown considering that they've won three Super Bowls and appeared in a fourth since that game.

The D-coordinator's words and the headlines of the time make this an amusing anecdote that just makes the whole event that much better for the Patriots, in retrospect.

That said, It's easy to see why Flowers was able to laugh this off. Flowers was a part of the Patriots in 2017, so he has seen both sides of the "We're on to Cincinnati" game. Flowers likely enjoyed his time in New England, as he logged 30 tackles and 3.5 sacks in his best NFL season to date. He also got to play in the Super Bowl (although the Patriots fell in that game to the Philadelphia Eagles).

Click here for latest Patriots 53-man roster projection>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Patriots 2019 training camp schedule: Here's when veterans will report

Patriots 2019 training camp schedule: Here's when veterans will report

The defending Super Bowl champions will be back at Gillette Stadium exactly one month from Monday.

The NFL announced training camp report dates for all 32 teams Monday, and the Patriots' rookies are due in Foxboro on July 21, while the veterans are set to arrive on July 24.

Training camp traditionally starts one day after veterans report, meaning New England should begin training camp Thursday, July 25.

The Patriots have been off since June 10, when head coach Bill Belichick cancelled the team's final two days of organized team activities and set up a lively paintball experience instead.

The team hasn't announced complete training camp dates and times yet, but the Patriots will head to Detroit in the first full week of August for joint practices with the Lions prior to their Aug. 8 preseason opener.

They'll also hold joint practices with the Tennessee Titans the following week.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.