Gronk’s Retirement Forecasts Troubled Future for Football

by Charlie Matusek ’21

New England Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement on March 24. Gronkowski played for the Patriots for 10 years and in that time won three Super Bowls, accompanied by 79 receiving touchdowns and 7,861 total receiving yards. In the 16 playoff games Gronkowski played, he had 81 receptions for 1,163 yards and 12 touchdowns. Many people consider Gronkowski the best tight end to play in the NFL.

Days before Super Bowl LIII kicked off, Gronkowski hinted at retirement. “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. To take hits to the thigh, to take hits to your head…when your body is abused, it can bring down your mood,” said Gronkowski.

In 2012, Gronkowski played in Super Bowl XLVI, with a high ankle sprain. Without Gronkowski at full strength, the Patriots lost 21-17 to the New York Giants. Later in the 2013 season, Gronkowski tore his ACL, MCL, and received a concussion all on the same play in the regular season. Without Gronkowski, the Patriots lost the 2013 AFC Championship game, 28-13, against the Baltimore Ravens. In 2016, Gronkowski missed the last five regular season games and the entire postseason due to a back vertebral disc hernia and the Patriots lost to the Denver Broncos 20-18. In the 2018 AFC Championship game, Gronkowski took a hard hit to the head leaving him with a concussion. Without Gronkowski, the Patriots barley topped the Jaguars 24-20. With Gronkowski not playing in the next game against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII, the Patriots lost 41-33.

Clearly, the Patriots will miss Gronkowski. However, does the amount of injuries Gronkowski had raise questions about the safety of football? Gronkowski has been injured or concussed almost every season. Instead of retiring at age 30, a healthy Gronkowski could’ve played another 3 to 5 years and made millions more. The NFL have made rules on high hits, and leading with the head, but there is no way the NFL could add rules to completely get rid of injuries and concussions. This will have an impact on the value of football. Younger players will not want to constantly put themselves through pain of injury and concussion. With less value in the NFL, there will be less revenue, less people watching football, and less of a future to for professional football.