Patriots

Rob Gronkowski reveals 'game-changer' moment on eventual path to retirement

Rob Gronkowski reveals 'game-changer' moment on eventual path to retirement

Former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski retired from the NFL in March, but it sounds like he might have first contemplated stepping away from the game as far back as the summer of 2017.

In the latest episode of HBO's "The Shop" on Tuesday night, Gronkowski talks about his retirement and how an experience in 2017 impacted his outlook on football.

"I would say about two years ago there was, like, a game-changer in my life where I was trying to go out to the practices during the summer, and I was getting smoked by every rookie," Gronkowski said when asked what made him figure out 2018 would be his last season. "I felt in order to do something bigger in life, in order to get to a higher stage -- because you're winning the Super Bowl -- I felt I had to get away from the game and focus on my health."

Check out the rest of Gronkowski's comments in the video below:

Gronkowski announced a partnership with a CBD company last week, and while he hasn't completely shut the door on making a return to football at some point, the future Hall of Famer seems content with his decision. 

The physical toll pro football takes on players is immense, and especially for a player like Gronkowski, who was at his best when running over opponents and gaining extra yards after lots of contact. 

Gronkowski dealt with many injuries and went through several surgeries in his pro career, and now in retirement he can focus on getting his health to a comfortable place again.

Gronk offers great retirement advice to Andrew Luck>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device

Patriots have the NFL's toughest schedule next season

Patriots have the NFL's toughest schedule next season

With or without Tom Brady at quarterback, those traditional complaints about the Patriots having an easy schedule will likely die down a bit next season.

Yes, there's still the AFC East for the Pats to feast on, but based on their opponents' records in 2019, New England has the NFL's toughest schedule in 2020. 

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Patriots opponents had a .537 winning percentage in 2019. Dates and times will be released as usual in mid-April, but the opponents have been known for a while and they include the two Super Bowl teams (on the road vs. the champion Kansas City Chiefs and hosting the runner-up San Francisco 49ers) and five other games against team who made the playoffs (the Buffalo Bills home and away, at the Seattle Seahawks, at the Houston Texans and home vs. the Baltimore Ravens).

The Pats are matched up with the AFC West and NFC West for non-division opponents, which throws some coast-to-coast trips in the mix. It also puts New England's AFC East rivals right up there with the toughest schedules as well, with the Jets second, the Miami Dolphins third and the Bills the fifth-toughest. 

The team with the easiest schedule next season? It's the one that won the most regular-season games (14) last season and earned the AFC's No. 1 seed in the playoffs, the Ravens. Their opponents had a combined .437 winning percentage last season. 
 

Vikings WR Stefon Diggs' Instagram activity sparks Patriots trade speculation

Vikings WR Stefon Diggs' Instagram activity sparks Patriots trade speculation

One of the New England Patriots' primary focuses this offseason will be to add weapons to an offense that lacked its usual explosiveness in the 2019 season.

There are plenty of options on the free agent market that could help the Patriots in that regard, but they also could look to improve their roster via trade. In fact, one particular star wide receiver appears to be placing himself on the trade block.

On Tuesday, Minnesota Vikings star Stefon Diggs removed all Vikings-related content from his Instagram page. That means no Vikings photos or videos, and no mention of the organization in his "bio" section.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Predictably, that sparked plenty of "Diggs-to-the-Pats" speculation on social media.

And there's much more where that came from.

Making a move to add a top-tier wideout like Diggs not only would give the Patriots' receiving corps a much-needed boost, it also could entice soon-to-be free agent Tom Brady to stay in New England. The 42-year-old quarterback is set to officially hit free agency on March 18.

As for Diggs, he has four years remaining on his contract and the Vikings' asking price would be reasonably high. The 26-year-old caught 63 passes for 1,130 yards and six touchdowns in 2019.

Is there a chance this is nothing and we're all reading way too much into social media? Of course. But it wouldn't be an NFL offseason if we didn't have this kind of drama to talk about.