FOXBOROUGH – As the rumors of Rob Gronkowski’s potential flirtation with retirement swirl once again, one can’t help but wonder if Sunday afternoon was Rob Gronkowski’s final walk off the Gillette Stadium turf of his NFL career.
Asked about this possibility following the Patriots’ 41-28 thrashing of Los Angeles in an AFC divisional round matchup, Gronkowski said his focus was on the Chargers and that it would be the same way next week when the Patriots travel to Kansas City for the AFC Championship.
“I’m all-in right now,” he said. “We’ve got the Kansas City Chiefs now. It’s going to be another week of preparation, and I haven’t thought about anything like that, so just got to go all-in, keep our focus and keep on doing what we’ve got to do.”
The 29-year-old veteran has taken countless brutal hits and battled numerous injuries throughout his nine-year career in New England, but has continually shot down speculation that he’s hanging up the cleats after this season. Last month, he told reporters he was “all-in” for 2018, saying, “I love the grind.”
Sunday morning, that speculation was brought to the forefront again by a tweet from NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport saying Gronk will “strongly consider retirement” once the 2018 season has ended.
PATRIOTS 41, CHARGERS 28
So, Gronkowski was asked in a follow-up Sunday, what are the thoughts right now?
“That I’m going to have to enjoy the win,” he said. “That’s what we do. You get one night to enjoy the win, actually around here. You do, you get one night. And then when you wake up tomorrow morning, then it’s on to Kansas City.”
If this truly was No. 87’s last performance in front of the fans that have come to deify him over the last decade, it was defined in a manner perhaps too befitting of him.
After all, how many skill-position players in the NFL can honestly say they dominated a game without even really touching the ball?
Gronkowski was targeted just once, his only catch coming on one of those customary lumbering car crashes over the middle that fans in New England have venerated time and again. And yet, those big, glue-trap mitts of No. 87 are all over the blueprint of every rushing touchdown New England scored.
PATRIOTS 41, CHARGERS 28
Whether it was barrel-rolling into Darius Philon to open up Sony Michel’s first score of the game, a one-yard dive; velcroing himself to Hayes Pullard at the second level to open up the alley for Michel to dive at the pylon for his second score; putting Kyle Emanuel on roller skates for Rex Burkhead’s lone score; or leading the pile-push that netted Michel his third rushing score; this may have very well been one of Gronk’s most complete games of the season.
“Just to be able to run the ball, to be able to block, I mean, I’ve never taken it for granted,” Gronkowski said. “I’ve always loved run blocking. I love to do the balance of both.”
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