Patriots

Report: Rob Gronkowski's back injury a factor in retirement, potential return

Report: Rob Gronkowski's back injury a factor in retirement, potential return

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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Stephon Gilmore, Ty Law show mutual respect on Patriots' Israel trip

Stephon Gilmore, Ty Law show mutual respect on Patriots' Israel trip

Stephon Gilmore appreciates his New England Patriots history.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft brought a handful of New England players past and present to Israel this week, among them Gilmore and recent Patriots Hall of Fame inductee Ty Law.

Law rocked No. 24 while winning three Super Bowl titles in New England before Gilmore took the number in 2017. And Gilmore showed respect to his All-Pro predecessor Wednesday on Instagram while the two hung out in Israel.

It appears the respect is mutual, as Law added this reply in the comments:

"The torch is officially passed!! It’s your world now. Keep representing young gun. 💪🏾"

Gilmore certainly is representing No. 24 well. The 28-year-old earned first-team All-Pro honors last season during the best campaign of his career, limiting receivers to a ridiculous 44 percent catch rate.

Indeed, Gilmore has developed into the lockdown corner Law was during his 10 seasons with the Patriots and shows no signs of slowing down entering 2019.

Joining Gilmore and Law on Kraft's trip to Israel are current players David Andrews, Joe Thuney, Isaiah Wynn, Brandon King, and Nate Ebner, as well as ex-players Andre Tippett, Drew Bledsoe, Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork.

Kraft also will receive Israel's esteemed 2019 Genesis Prize on Thursday -- dubbed the "Jewish Nobel Prize" -- for his work combating anti-Semitism.

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Where does Patriots' Sony Michel rank among NFL RB1s entering 2019?

Where does Patriots' Sony Michel rank among NFL RB1s entering 2019?

Sony Michel enjoyed a tremendous rookie season for the New England Patriots and played a pivotal role in the team's run to a sixth Super Bowl championship.

The 24-year-old running back ran for 931 yards and six touchdowns in 13 regular season games, but his real value, however, was shown in the playoffs. Michel tallied 336 yards and a rookie postseason record six touchdowns in three games, culminating with 94 yards and the Patriots' only touchdown in their 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII.

After a stellar first season as a pro, where does Michel rank among the league's RB1s entering the 2019 season? Former NFL running back Maurice Jones-Drew ranked Michel at No. 11 in his rankings on NFL.com. Here's what MJD had to say about the Georgia product:

Michel showed he can be a bell cow during the postseason, with 71 carries for 336 yards and a rookie-record six rushing TDs in three games. He underwent a minor knee procedure in June, but Michel should still be the effective rusher he was in the postseason starting in September. Plus, I think Patriots OC Josh McDaniels will be more creative with the running game now that Rob Gronkowski is no longer on the team.

Jones-Drew put New York Giants rookie sensation Saquon Barkley atop his rankings, with Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints, Le'Veon Bell of the New York Jets, Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys and Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers rounding out the top five, in that order.

The Patriots offense was carried by its ground game in the last season's playoffs, and we could see more of the same this coming season after New England selected talented Alabama running back Damien Harris in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The Pats now have Michel, Harris, Rex Burkhead and James White leading a really impressive group of running backs that should make the team's offense a well-balanced unit next season.

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