During the 2019 offseason, the New England Patriots lost tight end Rob Gronkowski to retirement. Gronkowski elected to call it quits after nine NFL seasons, all of which came with the Patriots.
And in a recent interview, Gronk opened up about exactly why he decided to retire. His body simply couldn't hold up any more and he felt like he had "lost a step."
"I 100 percent lost a step (last year)," Gronkowski said on Barstool Radio, as transcribed by WEEI's Ryan Hannable. "I actually lost like three steps some games. I didn’t even want to be out there on the field. I was like, ‘Yo, I feel like complete ass. Coach, put Dwayne (Allen) in, I don’t even care.’ I was at that point."
This was a well-known fact at the time of his retirement, but hearing Gronk detail exactly how much he had lost is eye-opening. But it's also completely understandable.
Gronk had a number of injuries throughout his NFL career including back problems that plagued him during college, a forearm fracture, and a torn ACL, MCL, and concussion that were all suffered on the same play.
By the end of his career, he was just too banged-up to keep producing on the field. And it was clear when watching him play.
In his final year in New England, Gronkowski had one of his worst statistical seasons. He still made some big plays, including a big one in the Super Bowl vs. the Rams. But he didn't make as many downfield plays as he had in previous season. He only scored a career-low three regular-season touchdowns and had just 47 catches, his second-lowest total for a season in which he had played at least 11 games.
At the end of the day, Gronk simply knew it was time to call it quits. And while some wanted him to return to the Patriots in 2019, it was probably for the best that he didn't. If he was losing a step in 2018, his decline likely would have continued into 2019.
Still, Gronkowski is one of the best tight ends ever to play the game. And in all likelihood, he'll be enshrined in Canton in the not-too-distant future.