We've mostly heard speculation about Rob Gronkowski's future since he retired in March.
But the former New England Patriots tight end tackled the rumors head-on Tuesday.
After announcing a partnership with the CBD company CBDMedic during a press conference in New York, Gronkowski fielded the expected questions about when (or if) he'd return to football.
And in a rare moment of vulnerability, the ex-Patriots tight end broke down while discussing the intense pain that forced him to retire.
Rob Gronkowski addresses whether or not he is coming back to the NFL: "Football was bringing me down." pic.twitter.com/SM9P084Rcj— Patriots on NBCSB (@NBCSPatriots) August 27, 2019
"I want to be clear to my fans: I needed to recover," Gronkowski told the audience. "I was not in a good place. Football was bringing me down, and I didn't like it. I was losing that joy in life, like, the joy. I'm sorry, but -- I really was. I was fighting through it."
Gronkowski credited CBD with helping him manage the pain of nine surgeries and countless other injuries. He also said he's in a good place with his health, and raised eyebrows by admitting he's physically capable of returning to football right now.
Gronk on what's holding him back from returning to the NFL:— Patriots on NBCSB (@NBCSPatriots) August 27, 2019
"Physically, I could play if I wanted to right now. Hands down . . . but mentally, desire-wise, it's not there." pic.twitter.com/1lLcIBw9ii
"Physically, I'll be ready. I could play right now if I wanted to play, hands down," Gronk said. "I can run fast right now, I'm feeling good. Physically-wise, I can do it. Mentally, desire-wise, it's not there."
Gronkowski indeed left the door wide open for a comeback, hedging that stance by insisting he won't return to the NFL unless he's in the right mental space.
"I truly believe I can get to another level with my body," Gronk said. " ... And when that time comes down the future, if I have the desire, if I feel passionate about football again, if I'm feeling like I need to be out there on the field, I will go back to football.
"But as of right now, that is not the case. It could be the case in six months, it could be the case in two years, could be the case in three years, could be the case in three months. But I truly don't see it in the foreseeable future, in like a week or a month. No. I want to do a different chapter in my life right now."
The 30-year-old even referenced his Patriots contract, which had one year remaining before he retired.
"I've got one year left on my contract," he added. "I'm not even sure how the one-year contract works. I'm pretty sure if I come back in two years, I'm still with the Patriots for a year."
Gronkowski clearly hasn't put the NFL in his rearview mirror, and he seems open to returning to the Patriots one day. But it sounds like he won't make that decision lightly.
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