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Devin McCourty on Gronk absence: We’ll see how it works out for us

Rob Gronkowski looks much slimmer during the first few months of his retirement, and Mike Florio believes that's a sign that an NFL return in 2019 seems unlikely.

Rob Gronkowski is not heading to training camp with the Patriots for the first time since 2009 and everyone knows that will mean some differences for the team.

Special teams ace Matthew Slater said the team will miss Gronk’s “child-like joy that he brought each and every day” in addition to all that the tight end could do on the field, but what that will mean for the team remains an unknown for safety Devin McCourty.

“We don’t know. We’ll see,” McCourty said in a Wednesday press conference. “Obviously, a huge part of the organization for nine years. I got to come in here with him as a rookie and go through a lot together, but we’ll see how it goes. I think that’s the thing in football -- the one thing that’s consistent is change. We all know it’s going to happen. I’m excited to go into this year. He looks like he’s having an awesome time on Instagram. I’m really happy for him being able to have a great career and leave the game on your own terms. We’ll see how it works out for us.”

McCourty was asked if he thinks the team would welcome Gronkowski back if he changes his mind about retirement and he joked that they would because they welcomed his twin brother Jason with open arms last year even though Jason “struggled for nine years in the NFL.” The Patriots can’t bank on that return, of course, and how things play out for the Patriots offense will be closely watched as the 2019 season unfolds.