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Wednesday 24 April 2019

New England Patriots great Rob Gronkowski announces retirement to end nine-year NFL career

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement Sunday on Instagram, ending one of the league's most dominant and colorful careers after nine seasons.

"It all started at 20 years old on stage at the NFL draft when my dream came true, and now here I am about to turn 30 in a few months with a decision I feel is the biggest of my life so far. I will be retiring from the game of football today," he wrote.

Gronkowski, who turns 30 in May, thanked the Patriots organization, teammates and fans in the lengthy post.

"Thank you for everyone accepting who I am and the dedication I have put into my work to be the best player I could be. But now it's time to move forward," he wrote. "... Cheers to all who have been part of this journey, cheers to the past for the incredible memories, and a HUGE cheers to the uncertain of what's next."

Quarterback Tom Brady, who has thrown twice as many touchdowns to Gronkowski (78) as any other player (Randy Moss, 39) in his career, commented on the tight end's Instagram post, writing, "Love u man!! The!! Couldn't be a better person or teammate!!!!"

Bill Belichick, whose 19-year tenure as Patriots coach encompassed Gronkowski's career, said in statement issued by the team that it has been "a pleasure and a privilege" to coach Gronkowski.

"Rob will leave an indelible mark on the Patriots organization and the game as among the best, most complete players at his position to ever play," Belichick said.

Gronkowski -- who has battled serious injuries to his back and knee and missed 29 games in his career -- openly pondered retirement last offseason, but he returned for another campaign.

Before Super Bowl LIII this year, he said he would make a decision about his future a few weeks after the big game. He also discussed the physical wear and tear he endures throughout the season, as a 6-foot-6, 268-pounder who takes big hits as a receiver, regularly blocks defensive linemen and often plays through injury.

"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. Try to 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."

Over the last several years, Gronkowski has steadily added experience in other fields, making a WWE appearance in 2017 and taking roles in various movies. Many reports have said the tight end has his eyes on an acting career in Hollywood, while some expect him to go into wrestling.

"His production spoke for itself, but his daily attitude, unmistakably positive energy wherever he went and toward whoever he touched will never be forgotten," Belichick said.

Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft said in a statement that he looks forward to honoring Gronkowski "in the near future as both a Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Famer."

"As great of a player as he was, he is an even better person and ambassador of the game," Kraft said. "Throughout his career, he made countless appearances in the community and there was no better remedy for hospital patients than a visit from Gronk."

A three-time Super Bowl champion, four-time First Team All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection, Gronkowski caught 521 passes for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns in 115 games from 2010-18. Despite playing just nine seasons, he ranks ninth in NFL history among tight ends in receiving yards and tied for third in receiving TDs.

No player at any position caught more touchdowns than Gronkowski during his NFL tenure, and only LeSean McCoy equaled his 80 total touchdowns.

Gronkowski added 81 catches for 1,163 yards and 12 touchdowns in 16 postseason contests, all top marks among tight ends all-time. Only Jerry Rice (22) has caught more scores in playoff history.

"From his rookie year until his final season and through countless times in between, Rob was a major reason why we won games and championships," Belichick said. "His elite combination of size, skill, intelligence, toughness and ability to perform in pressure situations set him apart."

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