Hannable: Rob Gronkowski didn’t commit to playing in 2019, but his words were telling

Ryan Hannable
December 27, 2018 - 11:11 pm

Reinhold Matay/USA Today Sports

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FOXBORO — A roller coaster has ups and downs, twists and turns and Rob Gronkowski acknowledged his 2018 season has been like one.

“I mean, we’ve been through a roller coaster, up and down throughout the whole season, and what you’ve got to do is just stay focused and keep on preparing and keep on mentally and physically just grinding and just keep going,” he said Thursday.

It has been a unique season for the 29-year-old tight end. 

Gronkowski certainly hasn’t been himself all year as he’s lacked the explosiveness on the field to get open like in the past. Some of this can be attributed to nagging ankle/back injuries, which have forced him to miss three games. He’s certainly had his moments, like in Week 1 when he had seven catches for 123 yards and a touchdown, a monster fourth quarter against the Chiefs and then an eight-catch, 107-yard performance in Miami.

But, the year has also had its downs like missing three out of four games before the bye week and then two catches for 21 yards combined in his last two games. In 12 games this season, Gronkowski has 45 receptions for 658 yards and three touchdowns. He is not going to hit any of his performance-based incentives, which will keep him from earning up to an extra $3.3 million and he's on track to record his lowest yards per game average (54.8) since his rookie season (34.1). Also, if he finishes with three touchdowns, it will tie a career-low (injury seasons included).

The year certainly has tested his mental strength, as he’s had to deal with things he’s never had to before — not performing on the field like in the past.

“I mean it’s definitely a challenge,” he said. “I would say that’s probably 50 percent of it. I mean, yeah, you can have the physical tools and everything, but if you’re not mentally there all the way then you’re not going to be able to use the physical tools how you want to use them. Definitely, you’ve just got to stay positive. You learn a lot of things every single year about yourself as you get older about how you adapt to things. You just learn that you’ve got to stay positive. You can never get too down on yourself. I mean, yeah, you can get down on yourself a little bit to get you re-motivated and stuff, but I’ve learned. That has happened to me before – you get too down and you dig yourself a bigger hole. You’ve just got to stay balanced. 

“It’s a roller coaster season, as you guys have seen all year, but whenever things aren’t going right you’ve just got to stay positive and keep going, keep doing what you need to do and you know you’ll bounce back.”

Earlier in the week Tom Brady said he “absolutely” will be playing in 2019, but what about Gronkowski? He wasn’t as committal. 

“I mean, I haven’t been thinking about that at all,” he said. “We’re on the last game going into Week 17. We’ve got the Jets and that’s all I’m really worried about as of now.”

Earlier in the year Gronkowski linked himself to the quarterback saying he didn’t want to play with anyone else, so is he going to try and play as long as Brady does? Not so fast.

“I mean, we haven’t thought about that. I haven’t thought about that,” he said. “We’ve got this big game Sunday still and the playoffs after. That’s the last thing that’s on my mind right now.”

While Gronkowski was non-committal on his future, he wasn’t non-committal on everything.

“I’m going to tell you this right now – I’m going to be all in for the rest of the year, no matter when it is, and that’s just my main focus, no matter how it goes,” he said.

What does all this mean?

Reading in between the lines and knowing what we know, it would not be a surprise if Gronkowski is gearing himself up for a strong finish this season to potentially ride off into the sunset.

Everyone knows Gronkowski contemplated retirement last offseason and then after going through everything that he has this season, is it really worth going through it all once more? Perhaps, he could be convinced to change his mind, but by not committing to 2019, a year he’s still under contract for, it says the tight end is at least thinking about calling it quits after the season.

It just makes sense for everyone. 

Gronkowski has a base salary of $9 million next year and a cap hit of $12 million. The Patriots are not going to want to pay him that for what he’s given them on the field this year and Gronkowski doesn’t seem like a player that wants any part of taking a pay cut.

In an ideal world, the tight end would have his best games of the season and go out with a good taste in his mouth. The last thing he wants is to leave the game looking like the player he’s looked like for the majority of the season. Hence, being “all in” for the rest of the year.

So, while Gronkowski won’t come out and say it, it appears his career ride could be coming to an end and he's hoping for an exhilarating finish. 

Related: Patriots much healthier than Jets going into Week 17 matchup