Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski will be reunited at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the upcoming NFL season
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski connected for 7,786 yards and 78 touchdowns in their prosperous nine years together with the New England Patriots.
The latter puts them fifth on the list of most prolific touchdown combinations in NFL history, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group.
Now, the pair have reunited for what could be one final rodeo, Gronkowski coming out of retirement little over a year after hanging up his cleats to join his old friend at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Since pressing pause on his career in March 2019, tight end Gronkowski has added the WWE 24/7 title to three Super Bowl rings, five Pro Bowl selections and four-time first-team All-Pro honours on his sporting résumé. Having dipped his feet in the world of pro wrestling, the 31-year-old pursued a return to the NFL this offseason by requesting a trade that saw him and a seventh-round pick head to Tampa in exchange for a fourth-rounder.
0:39 Gronkowski revealed how he came to be reunited with Brady at the Bucs
“I didn’t see it coming,” NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger told Sky Sports. “But he (Gronkowski) is only 30-years-old, the most dominant tight end we’ve seen in our lifetime. The most dominant guy we’ve watched.
“I went back and watched him in the 2018/19 post-season against the Chargers, the Chiefs and then against the Rams. The guy was a dominant blocker. With the third downs that mattered the most against the Chiefs, the ball went to Gronk.
“The bigger statement is, these guys truly weren’t having fun in New England. They wanted out and Gronk, as we know, is a light-hearted guy who wants to have a good time and he always felt like he subverted all of his personality for the Patriots way, which is fine. They won a lot of championships with him.”
Gronkowski endured a barrage of physical punishment in his latter years with the Patriots, with back, knee, ankle and arm injuries contributing to his decision to step away following victory over the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl. Only when he steps out on the field will the true impact of a year to heal become clear.
Regardless, he promises to add to Brady’s embarrassment of riches on offense alongside Pro Bowl receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, as well as tight ends Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard – should the latter stay put. The introduction of first-round tackle Tristan Wirfs could also ease the burden on Gronkowski’s taxing blocking expertise.
0:26 Former NFL scout Bucky Brooks admits he was surprised that the New York Giants chose Andrew Thomas with the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft
Brady openly admitted in an honest interview with Howard Stern that he lacked trust in certain Patriots receivers last season. It’s fair to say he should have no such problems in Tampa.
Baldinger added: “I think this is an era where Brady, as soon as he was thinking about signing with Tampa, you can hear the conversations. ‘Hey, Gronk, let’s go have some fun, let’s go to Tampa, let’s get a boat, this guy Bruce Arians cuts jokes, let’s put the band together’.”
“Who else are they going to go get? Maybe Wes Walker comes out of retirement?
“All of those guys are looking down there like ‘man, we’re envious Tom, you’re going to have a good time, you can enjoy practice’. If you listen to Brady already, kind of publicising where he’s living in Derek Jeter’s house, it already feels like he’s come out of his shell.”
0:36 Baldinger expects Brady and Gronkowski to team up to great effect once again in Tampa .
Gronkowski may have shed the pounds since calling time on his football career, but that weight can quite easily return with the right training and nutrition across the next few months. The upside being the array of options Brady has at his disposal if his long-time partner in crime is not up to speed straight away.
It’s a coming together that has helped reinvigorate a franchise and heighten the belief that the Bucs are capable of snapping that 13-year omission from the playoffs.
“I think for the first time, fans are going to see what Tom Brady is really all about, and why everybody loved him,” added Baldinger. “Coaches, players, ex-players. You might see a completely different Tom Brady. If he has success you might actually hear him chirp a little and kind of act like the GOAT.
“He didn’t have much around him (last season). I think he can still throw the football, I don’t see a drop off in arm strength. I believe he’ll have another good season, if not a great season.”
Stay up-to-date with the latest NFL offseason stories and talking points at skysports.com/nfl, as well as on Twitter @SkySportsNFL. Neil Reynolds & Jeff Reinebold will also be at hand to talk you through the big topics on Inside The Huddle podcast.