Following last season's Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, many speculated whether or not New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski would retire. It wasn't until late April that the tight end announced he would return for the 2018 season.
As the Pats seek their eighth consecutive trip to the AFC title game, it appears Gronk's future is in question once again.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Sunday that Gronkowski is considering retiring at season's end again and that those close to the star say he's closer to that decision this year than he was following the 2017 season.
"The Patriots' long-time fixture is expected to weigh retirement once again, and he may be playing the final games of his likely Hall of Fame career," Rapoport reported. "Just 29-years-old and financially set, Gronkowski nearly retired last season rather than be traded to the Lions and finish his career elsewhere."
The tight end's numbers have noticeably dropped this season. He played in 13 games, catching 47 passes for 682 yards and three touchdowns.
While Gronkowski's physical struggles have been well documented this season, Rapoport says there has also been an emotional struggle for the NFL star, as well.
“While he’s feeling physically good going into today’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, those who know him well say the season has taken an emotional toll on him. Perhaps strongly considering retiring last year put him in a place where it was difficult to get fired up for this season,” Rapoport wrote. “Gronkowski hasn’t seemed to be the same effusive personality and people close to him say everything has been a battle. They wonder how much he loves it.”
It was just in late December that Gronkowski was asked if he was considering retirement.
"I haven't been thinking about that at all," he responded at the time.
Gronk insisted he still enjoys the game.
"I love the grind," he said. "I'm all in. I've been all in all season. No matter if it's been up, if it's been down. I'm gonna tell you this right now: I'm gonna be all in the rest of the year no matter what it is. That's just my main focus, no matter how it goes."
If the Patriots win Sunday, they'll advance to the AFC Championship Game next weekend in Kansas City. But win or lose, if the report is true, Sunday's game would be Gronkowski's final game at Gillette Stadium.