FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Rob Gronkowski left open the possibility before last year’s Super Bowl that he might retire, and even though he returned for the 2018 season, speculation persists that he’s again thinking about walking away from the NFL at age 29.
Gronkowski wouldn’t directly address an NFL Network report Sunday that said the veteran tight end might retire after the playoffs. But he didn’t deny it, either.
“I was focused on L.A. the whole game,” Gronkowski said when asked about whether he thought about this possibly being his final home game.
The Patriots beat the Chargers, 41-28, in Sunday’s AFC divisional-round playoff game to qualify for next week’s AFC Championship Game in Kansas City.
“It’s going to be the same thing this week. I’m all-in right now,” Gronkowski said. “We’ve got the Kansas City Chiefs now. It’s going to be another week of preparation, and I haven’t thought about anything like that. I’ve got to keep on doing what I’ve got to do to help this team out to win next week.”
Gronkowski wouldn’t speculate about what his plans are for the 2019 season. “My thoughts are about right now, that I’m going to enjoy the win,” he said. “You get one night to enjoy the win around here. And then, when you wake up tomorrow morning, then it’s on to Kansas City. I’ll be doing that and then I’ll be thinking about next week.”
Gronkowski reportedly was shopped by the Patriots in a potential trade with the Lions before the season, but the tight end nixed that idea by making it clear he wanted to play only for the Patriots and wanted to catch passes only from Tom Brady.
Gronkowski had a down year with 47 catches for 682 yards and three touchdowns. He had only one catch in Sunday’s game, although it was a vintage Gronkowski moment. Brady found him open over the middle and fired a short pass, which he caught before turning upfield and carrying several defenders on the way to a 25-yard gain.
Gronkowski was used primarily as a blocker and helped the Patriots total 155 rushing yards and four touchdowns. “That was a real fun game out there, just the way we were executing,” he said. “ . . . Blocking, receiving, no matter what is, whatever play is called, just got to go out there and do your job. We had a lot of run action, running plays and just got to do your best job at it. It was a great overall offensive unit that we went out there and just put plays together and put up points.”
Gronkowski’s mission now: Beat the Chiefs, prove the Patriots still are championship quality and silence the doubters.
“You do hear things like that, but you’ve got to ignore it where it doesn’t ruin your preparation,” he said. “You’ve got to keep preparing how you’ve prepared every week. We’ve been hearing things like that for a few years, so we just laugh at it and keep moving forward.”