Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski unsure if he'll return for another title pursuit in 2022

Rob Gronkowski came out of retirement to chase a ring with his pal, Tom Brady. Their pursuit could be finished.

Brady and Gronkowski -- affectionately known as Tommy and Gronky -- got the job done in year one, but the second go-around ended Sunday in the Divisional Round. Gronkowski is going to need some time to think about giving it a third go.

"I'm really going to basically do what's best for myself in terms of the football world," Gronkowski said Monday following the Buccaneers' 30-27 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. "It's going to be a decision based upon of where I'm at in a couple weeks."

Gronkowski has been here before, walking away from the NFL after the 2018 season a four-time Super Bowl champion, but a physically broken-down man in need of extended time to recover. His return to the NFL came as a surprise on the heels of Brady moving south to Tampa in early 2020, and it took Gronkowski roughly half of his first season back to really get his legs underneath him.

That timing was perfect for Tampa Bay's run to Super Bowl LV, a game in which Gronkowski caught Tampa Bay's first two touchdown passes in a 31-9 triumph over the Kansas City Chiefs. Gronkowski carried over the momentum from his strong finish to the 2020 season into 2021 before he was sidelined by a ribs injury that forced him to miss five games. When he returned, he quickly became an essential part of Tampa Bay's passing attack, catching 39 passes for 618 yards and two touchdowns from Weeks 11-18. He added another nine catches for 116 yards and one score in the playoffs, but was also a key focus of Los Angeles' defensive gameplan, with one target intended for Gronkowski resulting in a Nick Scott interception.

The Buccaneers fell behind 27-3 before mounting a furious comeback that ended in heartbreak only after Matthew Stafford threw the Rams into field goal range in the game's final minute, and former Buccaneer Matt Gay kicked a game-winning field goal to send the Rams to the NFC Championship Game.

With the pain still fresh, Gronkowski isn't about to rush a decision on his future. At 32 years old, he knows the importance of taking some time to heal (both physically and mentally) and reflect on the season before deciding whether he wants to give it another go.

If Brady is still involved, Gronkowski said Monday it definitely won't be an easy call.

"I'll never take anything off the board," Gronkowski said, via the Tampa Bay Times' Rick Stroud.

Though he's long been known as a physically dominant tight end, Gronkowski has taken quite the punishment throughout his career. His injury list is long, and his most recent ailment wasn't just a bruise.

Still, Gronkowski displayed a strong desire to compete when he convinced Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians to allow him to play in Week 8 before the tight end realized he'd rushed himself back too soon.

That desire might lead him back to the Buccaneers in 2022, though as Arians admitted Monday, Tampa Bay won't be able to bring back all 22 starters as it did for the 2021 season. Faces will change, but the goal will remain the same. We'll see in the weeks and months ahead whether Gronkowski signs up for another pursuit of a Lombardi Trophy.

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