Star tight end Rob Gronkowski announced on Tuesday that he would be returning to the New England Patriots for the 2018 season, bolstering their chances of winning another Super Bowl championship.

Rob Gronkowski retirement
Rob Gronkowski has ended speculation that he might retire from the NFL, saying he will return to the New England Patriots for the 2018 season. (Image: Getty)

“I met with coach today and informed him I will be back for the 2018 season with the Pats,” Gronkowski said via Instagram. “I have been working out, staying in shape and feel great. Looking forward to another championship run.”

(A thoroughbred racehorse that shares his name can’t say the same thing.)

Injuries Pile Up

Gronkowski was the subject of intense speculation this offseason, as his future with the Pats – and in football in general – appeared to be in question. Immediately after New England lost the 2018 Super Bowl to the Philadelphia Eagles, he was asked by reporters about the possibility that he might retire.

“I don’t know how you heard that, but I mean, I’m definitely going to look at my future,” Gronkowski said. “I’m going to sit down in the next couple of weeks and see where I’m at.”

In terms of his age and production, it would have been surprising for Gronkowski to retire. He caught 69 receptions for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns on his way to an All-Pro selection last season, and will only turn 29 this month.

But the tight end has had some health scares in recent years. In 2016, he underwent the third back surgery of his career and missed about half of the season. More recently, he left last season’s AFC championship game after suffering a concussion.

Gronkowski was reportedly considering retirement well before that concussion, however. In February, Jeff Darlington of ESPN reported that Gronk had been thinking about ending his career even before the championship game.

“It’s not a done deal by any means, but this is not something that is simply an emotional approach to the loss of the Super Bowl, nor is it an emotional response to the concussion,” Darlington said on SportsCenter.

Bizarre Presser Fueled Retirement Talk

Questions over Gronkowski’s future intensified after he skipped voluntary team workouts last week, though he was far from the only players to sit out the program, as Tom Brady was also absent.

Gronkowski then took part in a strange press conference for Monster Energy Supercross at Gillette Stadium – home of the Patriots — where reporters couldn’t help but ask him about his future in football.

“No,” Gronkowski said when asked if he would participate in any part of the Patriots’ optional workouts. “I’ve got dirt biking skills to work on.”

While the press conference was meant to be lighthearted and promotional, it was still unclear whether such offhand comments would be taken well by teammates and coaches given the uncertainty surrounding Gronk’s future.

But if there were any ill feelings following the event, they seem to be water under the bridge at this point. Gronkowski’s agent Drew Rosenhaus told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that a meeting between the player and coach Bill Belichick “was very positive,” and Schefter also reported that a source said Gronkowski would not be traded from the team this season.

The return of Gronkowski, one of the most dangerous offensive players in the NFL, will help the Patriots keep their position as the team to beat next season. They are the favorites to win the Super Bowl at most sportsbooks, with William Hill listing them at 5/1 to claim the NFL championship next season.