The biggest surprise of the NFL offseason wasn't Tom Brady signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was Rob Gronkowski coming out of retirement to join his former quarterback.
Just ask Gronk's own family members.
Joining Tom E. Curran on the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times revealed that Gronkowski's decision to end his year-long hiatus from football and team up with Brady came as a surprise to the rest of the Gronk clan.
I talked to his dad the other day, and to a person, his dad and all of his brothers were shocked that he came back and played. They really believed that he was going to stay retired.
That belief is understandable: Gronkowski seemed adamant he was done with football after a grueling, injury-filled 2018 season with the New England Patriots. He dropped about 40 pounds, dove into multiple business and entertainment ventures and seemed content with life after football.
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So, what led to Gronk's about-face? Stroud believes there's a simple answer.
"I think Tom Brady had a big influence," Stroud said. "I think he helped talk him into it a little bit."
This checks out, as Gronkowski revealed that Brady called him this offseason pleading for his tight end to join him in Tampa Bay.
But can the 31-year-old can be effective in 2020 after 18 months away from the gridiron? Health issues aside, Stroud believes Gronkowski's mere presence in a tight end room featuring O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate will be a boon for the Bucs.
"He's going to help a guy like O.J. develop, because he's not the most instinctual player but he's got tremendous ability," Stroud said. "So when you look at the tight ends this team has with him and Brate and O.J. Howard, I think it's a good position for them.
"They expect (Gronkowski) to play a lot. We'll see what his workload is; he'll play as much as he can. But it also gives Brady someone he knows. He didn't know anyone down here from a personnel standpoint, so that's a pretty good safety valve right there, a guy that's caught almost 80 touchdowns."