Rob Gronkowski played through a lot of pain last year. And if he decides to come out of retirement, he'll likely have to do the same.

It's been widely reported that injuries played a factor in the New England Patriots tight end's decision to step away from football at age 29. Among those injuries was a bulging disc in Gronkowski's back that NFL Media's Mike Giardi reported might need surgery at some point this offseason.

In his column Monday for The MMQB, Albert Breer confirmed Gronkowski's back injury played a role in his retirement decision and could dissuade him from attempting a comeback:

One reason why Gronkowski scuffled through 2018 was a mid-season battle with a bulging disk in his back. By the end of the year, it was no longer a factor. But I’m told that knowing how close he might have been to a fourth back surgery, and the implications that could have down the line, was one factor in his decision to retire.

So just logically, it’d be hard to imagine that concern would go away at 30 years old. Or, at the very least, would be one mental hurdle he’d have to clear if he were to come back again.

Gronkowski already has undergone three back surgeries and spoke openly this past season about the punishment his body has taken. Some current and former NFL players refuse to believe Gronk is done playing, but the affable All-Pro seems to be enjoying post-retirement life, with WWE cameos and appearances at Boston sporting events occupying part of his time.


In short: Gronk had good reason to retire, and while the door isn't totally shut on his 2019 return, it seems like he'd need a very good reason to suit up again.

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