Take it from us, kids: just because Jason Witten does something doesn’t always mean it’s a good idea. Most of the time, it does, but occasionally, it absolutely does not.
Good Witten: switches from defensive end to tight end (2000)
Also good Witten: (pretty much everything from then until retirement in 2017 in his Hall of Fame career)
Not so good Witten: Monday Night Football (2018-2018).
To-Be-Determined Witten: Comeback season 2019.
Having said that, it took all of roughly 18 hours after Rob Gronkowski made us all cry into our Sunday night pizza for the COMEBACK SEASON 2019 train to get fired up, and as you can see, it really hasn’t lost any steam since then, and now it’s almost pool season. Observe:
Don't be surprised if Gronk comes back https://t.co/EBhJlvPYxV— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) March 25, 2019
All the Gronkowski retirement reaction is nice but we all expect him to unretire next February for one more game, right?— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) March 24, 2019
Let’s be clear: that would rule! The NFL and planet Earth in general is obviously a much better place with Gronk doing Gronk things in it. He’s the kind of talent you’d tune in to watch even if you hated the Patriots, like how Pats fans watched in begrudging admiration when Julio Jones caught bombs in triple coverage, or Kam Chancellor knocked a crossing receiver’s cleats off, or Odell Beckham when he’s posterizing defensive backs and not getting into fights with stationary objects.
What doesn’t shake out when you do the math is the idea that Gronkowski would take a month and a half off after the Super Bowl, finally pull the trigger on retirement after kicking the idea around for at least a year already, and then just up and do a complete 180 this fall and lace ‘em up again.
Let’s start with the obvious: by the end of his career (assuming it is over, of course), it’d probably be easier to list the body parts that Gronk didn’t break, twist, sprain, tear, strain, or otherwise injure playing a game where defenders had to find new and creative (read: painful) ways to get him on the ground because, as any of us that cut our teeth on backyard football with kids bigger than us can tell you, just launching yourself at someone much larger than yourself usually ends poorly. For you, not them. Defensive backs in particular had to shoot their shot at his knees to take Gronk down, which ended at least one of his seasons and surely made several others much more difficult. And this past season in particular, Gronkowski got almost startlingly blunt on what it’s like to grind out a season at 29 years old when you’re taking more damage every weekend and not bouncing back like you could back in the day:
“The season’s a grind. It’s up and down. I’m not going to lie and sit here and say every week is the best,” Gronkowski said. ”Not at all. You go up, you go down. You can take some serious hits. To tell you the truth, just try and imagine getting hit all the time and trying to be where you want to be every day in life. It’s tough, it’s difficult. To take hits to the thigh, take hits to your head. Abusing your body isn’t what your brain wants. When your body is abused, it can bring down your mood. You’ve got to be able to deal with that, too, throughout the season. You gotta be able to deal with that in the games.
”And no one realizes that, and everyone expects us players to be wide awake every single day, and it’s like ‘yo, i just took 50 hits to my head -- or not to my head, but I’m saying I just took 50 collisions, and then like the next day everyone wants you to be up. They want practice full speed, next week they want the game to be full speed, but they don’t understand sometimes what players are going through with their bodies, with their minds. That’s why I’ve been saying you see a shift in players in games where people are down the whole game, and then you see, all of a sudden, the next week it’s like ‘how did this team just go from one switch to the other?’”
Here’s how that shakes out from one year to the next as the years pile on:
2017 season: 14 games started, 1,084 receiving yards, 69 receptions, 8 touchdowns
2018 season: 11 games started, 682 receiving yards, 47 receptions, 3 touchdowns
Somewhat surprisingly (or not, since this is pretty classic Gronk), he somehow still found a way to turn it the hell up in the postseason, so if there is a reason to hope for a comeback, maybe that’s it. I mean:
2017 postseason: 3 games, 218 receiving yards, 16 receptions, 3 touchdowns
2018 postseason: 3 games, 191 receiving yards, 13 receptions, 0 touchdowns
Aside from the goose egg in the touchdown column, what else could you want?
Back on the idea that this isn’t some decision Gronk made overnight, though, there’s also what he left on the table by choosing to hang ‘em up: according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, Gronk’s re-worked contract would’ve paid him a base salary of $9,000,000 for the 2019 season, and while his financial acumen is pretty well-documented, that’s quite a few zeroes to say “Nah, I’m good” unless you’re pretty freaking sure it’s not worth it anymore.
And finally, for the three of you still reading, we’ll once again check in with Tom Curran from NBC Sports Boston, who despite posting this on April Fool’s Day, caught up with Gronk post-Instagram announcement and asked him about making a comeback vs walking dogs for a living (which, there are definitely worse jobs to have):
“I didn’t tell ANYBODY!” he replied, clapping his hands, proud as he could possibly be that nobody really knew his plans until he announced them on Instagram.
“Lemme ask just one question,” I implored. “Do you think there’s any chance that, around Thanksgiving, you might be back playing?”
His eyebrows went up. His eyes widened. His mouth made a little O. He shook his head.
“I’m into new opportunities,” he said, pointing at Jim. “I was at CVS today with Jim. Bagged all his stuff. I might do that, be a bagger. I might open a dog-walking business, be a dog-walker, I don’t know.”
I told Gronk a friend of mine just opened a dog-walking business. He could contract out as a pooper scooper.
“No doubt! Get a long stick with a scooper on the end and a handle,” Gronk said, acting out the whole scene. “I just hit the trigger and it scoops it up. Then I reach back and drop it in a big bag on my back. Put all the poop in there and empty it every once in a while! So many ideas!”
Add all that up, and this isn’t a man who pulled the trigger on this just cause that’s how he woke up that afternoon. It’s the Gronk that we all know and love deciding that after banging his body around for the past two decades and almost having his career ended by injuries before he even graduated college looking around and realizing not only is the game getting tougher on him, but aside from padding his stats, he’s got nothing left to prove anyway.
Having said all that....
IF he does change his mind, though, you can bet the rent that I’ll be the first one to crack the glass on the framed Gronk jersey on my wall.
Kind of a “Break in case of Awesome”.