There are plenty of players who left their home town team to play for someone else — Roger Clemens, Johnny Damon, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ray Allen — whose names bring Boston sports fans to anger. And there is an argument that you can go ahead and maybe even add Rob Gronkowski to this list. You’re probably thinking that sounds excessive, and it very well may be, but the story of his eventual departure from the New England Patriots is a long and complicated one.
Let me take you all the way back to 2018. After not committing to a return following the Patriots’ loss in Super Bowl 52, Gronkowski also refused to join the team for OTAs or any other offseason workouts. There was a Monster Supercross event at Gillette Stadium, however, and who was one of the people there? No other than Gronk himself. In the press conference — here’s the video, in case you don’t remember it — he announced he was now a Monster Supercross racer, and refused to talk about his future with the Patriots.
The writing appeared to be on the wall and just a few days later, the Patriots had a trade in place to send him to Detroit:
2018 Rob Gronkowski trade:— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 21, 2020
Lions receive Gronkowski and a second-round pick (No. 43.)
Patriots receive a first-round pick (No. 20) and a second-round pic (No. 51)
2020 Gronkowski trade:
Buccaneers receive Gronkowski and a seventh-round pick.
Patriots receive a fourth-round pick.
When Gronkowski found out, he and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, met with Bill Belichick and the Patriots, and he threatened to retire if he was traded. After preventing New England from trading him, he agreed to show up to the team’s offseason work and to shut his mouth for the rest of the season, which he did. The Patriots would go on to win the Super Bowl, with the future Hall of Famer playing an enormous role in the team earning the title due to his blocking and clutch receptions in both the AFC Championship and the Super Bowl.
Just a short time later, however, he was back in the spotlight.
Gronkowski announced his retirement during the 2019 offseason, after free agency had already started to wind down. The Patriots were in a position to acquire Jared Cook at that time — a possibly perfect replacement — and even offered him more money than the New Orleans Saints did. However, he turned it down because he was unwilling to play TE2 in New England. With Gronk still wrestling (pun definitely intended) with the idea of playing again, Cook agreed to sign with the Saints. A short time later, Gronkowski called it a career.
Now here we are, another year later, and Gronkowski is suddenly back again.
Forget about what the Patriots got back for him from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — they received a fourth-rounder for basically nothing, since Gronk wasn’t going to play this year for them anyway. It’s not necessarily about the return, however, but rather the fact that he had the opportunity to play in New England, with his quarterback, last season and refused. He was done with the Patriots and the wear-and-tear, and would rather retire than play another snap last season. Now that Tom Brady is in Tampa, however, the situation has apparently changed.
Does this, and the two-year build-up, alter how he is seen in New England? For me, personally, his legacy as a Patriot will be changed by how it ended.
There is, of course, another side to the argument as well. After all, it cannot be denied that Gronkowski is the best tight end the NFL has ever seen and has earned his place in New England sports history. He was a massive part of two Super Bowl-winning teams, a smaller part of a third, and also was a big reason the team made two others. Those accomplishments can never be taken away from him, and the things he was able to do on the field and for the Patriots organization, may never be matched by another player, never mind tight end.
Does any of this change because of the will-he, won’t-he offseason speculation going back all the way to 2018? Or him returning this year and demanding a trade, thus showing loyalty to Brady rather than the Patriots? And how do you feel about all of this? Make sure to let us know!
Has Gronk’s legacy as a Patriot changed the last few years?
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Pat is a host of The Patriot Nation Podcast
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