Patriots star Rob Gronkowski announces retirement

 

Rob Gronkowski is going out on top.

The New England Patriots tight end announced on Sunday that he is retiring.

After making the biggest play of Super Bowl LIII to help the New England Patriots win another championship, Gronkowski is calling it a career. He announced he is retiring after nine NFL seasons.

Gronkowski was a dominant force at tight end for the Patriots, though years of significant injuries seemed to finally take a toll last season. He still had enough left for one more playoff run before stepping away.

And with his retirement, we can start Gronkowski’s countdown clock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Rob Gronkowski came up big in the playoffs

Gronkowski’s retirement first became a topic after Super Bowl LII. He said he’d seriously consider walking away then. He returned for another season, though he rarely looked like the same player who established himself as the NFL’s best tight end through the past decade.

Gronkowski had a long list of injuries through his career. He had a back injury at University of Arizona that caused him to slip to the second round of the draft. Then he dealt with multiple knee and arm injuries, among others, through his NFL career.

Gronkowski was always fantastic when he could play, though he wasn’t at his typically high level in 2018. He slipped to 52.5 yards per game, by far his lowest since his rookie season, and just three touchdowns. He didn’t look like the same player anymore.

https://sports.yahoo.com/rob-gronkowski-makes-big-play-patriots-win-bills-mostly-another-quiet-night-032900165.html

But he did come up big in the Super Bowl. Gronkowski’s fantastic 29-yard catch in the fourth quarter set up a go-ahead touchdown to break a 3-3 tie. That came after Gronkowski had some clutch catches in the AFC championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

It was a final reminder of how Gronkowski could take over any game he was in.

Gronkowski had a memorable NFL career

Gronkowski became popular for his partying ways off the field just as much as his dominance on it. He also has said a few times through the years that he has not spent any of his NFL salary, living off his endorsement deals. Assuming that’s accurate, it allowed him to forego a $9 million base salary next season to retire.

Even though Gronkowski had a quiet regular season last year, it’s still a huge loss for the Patriots. Gronkowski became Tom Brady’s best receiving option starting in 2011, his second NFL season when he posted 1,327 yards — a record for a tight end in a season that stood until this past season — and an NFL-best 13 touchdowns. That led to Gronkowski’s first All-Pro nod. He finishes his career as a five-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro and three-time Super Bowl champion.

As he retires, Gronkowski has an argument as the greatest tight end in NFL history. He was impossible to cover in his prime, and also a phenomenal blocker. He just didn’t have the longevity of Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates or Shannon Sharpe, due to injuries.

But what Gronkowski did in his nine NFL seasons will be remembered for a long, long time.

15 PHOTOS
Rob Gronkowski at Super Bowl XLIX and LI victory parades
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Rob Gronkowski at Super Bowl XLIX and LI victory parades
BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 07: Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett of the New England Patriots celebrate during the Super Bowl victory parade on February 7, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime in Super Bowl 51. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 07: Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots drinks beer during the Super Bowl victory parade on February 7, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime in Super Bowl 51. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 07: Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots drinks beer during the Super Bowl victory parade on February 7, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime in Super Bowl 51. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 07: Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots spikes a beer can during the Super Bowl victory parade on February 7, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime in Super Bowl 51. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 07: New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski chugs beer during the Victory Parade through the streets of Boston on February 7, 2017, in Boston, Massachusetts to celebrate winning Super Bowl LI. (Photo by Richard Cashin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 07: New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski during the Victory Parade through the streets of Boston on February 7, 2017, in Boston, Massachusetts to celebrate winning Super Bowl LI. (Photo by Richard Cashin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 07: New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) downs a beer during the Patriots Victory Parade through the streets of Boston on February 7, 2017, in Boston, Massachusetts to celebrate winning Super Bowl LI. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 07: New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) celebrates during the Patriots Victory Parade through the streets of Boston on February 7, 2017, in Boston, Massachusetts to celebrate winning Super Bowl LI. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 07: New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) slams a beer as New England Patriots fullback Glenn Gronkowski (47) stands by during the Patriots Victory Parade through the streets of Boston on February 7, 2017, in Boston, Massachusetts to celebrate winning Super Bowl LI. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 07: New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) slams a beer can during the Patriots Victory Parade through the streets of Boston on February 7, 2017, in Boston, Massachusetts to celebrate winning Super Bowl LI. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 07: New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) takes a swig during the Patriots Victory Parade through the streets of Boston on February 7, 2017, in Boston, Massachsetts to celebrate winning Super Bowl LI. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
February 4, 2015: Rob Gronkowski chugs a beer for the crowd. The New England Patriots paraded through the streets of Boston to celebrate their Super Bowl victory. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
February 4, 2015: Rob Gronkowski dance on a Duck Boat. The New England Patriots paraded through the streets of Boston to celebrate their Super Bowl victory. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
February 4, 2015: Rob Gronkowski pounds another beer. The New England Patriots paraded through the streets of Boston to celebrate their Super Bowl victory. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
BOSTON - FEBRUARY 4: New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, left, the Duck Boats to run briefly along Boylston high living the fans during the New England Patriots Super Bowl victory parade. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
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