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PFT 2019 storyline No. 9: Will Gronk come back?

Rob Gronkowski retired after the Patriots won the Super Bowl, but Mike Florio wonders if Gronk will still have that itch to play once the season gets going and whether New England would take him back.

Most of the articles listing the top 30 storylines for 2019 consist of analysis. This one actually has some news.

The question of whether retired Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has been discussed in many settings and contexts, and the video attached to this item paints the boundaries of the bigger picture.

When football season starts, Gronk may feel differently about his decision to walk away. But will he actually come back?

A source close to Gronkowski pegs his potential for a first annual unretirement at 40 percent.

For now, Gronk isn’t thinking about football. He’s enjoying his life, he doesn’t need the money, and he’s having a blast. The question becomes whether Gronkowski misses his teammates and/or the games after August becomes September. While he won’t miss dealing with training camp and the preseason, he could miss the game once they start playing games that count.

And here’s a factor that needs to be considered: If quarterback Tom Brady makes a direct appeal to Gronk, that could be the difference maker.

So what about the notion that Gronkowski has withered away to a shell of his former self? He has said that he’s lost only 18 pounds (I found half of that last week at the beach), and the attached photo of Gronk from last Thursday shows that he’s still got an impressive physique.

It’s also believed that coach Bill Belichick, who has declined to discuss the hypothetical possibility that Gronkowski will return, will not be an impediment to an unretirement. Although Belichick easily could take the position that he doesn’t want to create a precedent that encourages veterans to retire through the parts of the calendar that they don’t like and then return for the good stuff, Belichick has been very supportive of Gronkowski, we’re told. Also, a general softening of Belichick has been noticed, with a different side emerging and an approach that is more player-friendly.

The fact that Gronkowski could help the Patriots get a record-setting seventh Lombardi Trophy makes the question of whether he’ll come back even more significant. Still, for now, Gronkowski is retired.

Just like Brett Favre was at this time in 2008. And 2009. And 2010.