TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski, 32, said Wednesday that while he will need time to weigh a return for next season, if he had to made a decision right now, he would not return to play in the NFL in 2022.
"If they're like, 'Rob, you've got to decide right now, right this second if you're playing next year,' I would say no right now. It's two days after the season. I'd be like, 'No, I'm not playing,'" an animated Gronkowski said to TMZ Sports. "You've got to give it some time, you've got to rest to see how everything goes, to see how everything plays out, how I feel. I just want to heal completely, see where my thoughts are from there then."
Gronkowski, who played on a pair of one-year deals over the past two seasons, said Monday, during his final Bucs availability for the season, that he would need about three to five weeks to decompress and assess how he's feeling before making a decision. He echoed that in the interview, which had a playful tone throughout, as he was in good spirits.
"If I had to answer right now, it would be no," Gronkowski said. "But you never know. In three weeks, it might be yes!"
When asked whether he would have answered the same way in previous years the day after his season ended, Gronkowski laughed and said, "Yeah, probably."
Healthwise, Gronkowski said Monday that he has no major injuries but "minor bumps and bruises." He missed five games during the regular season because of cracked ribs and a punctured lung. He also said Monday he wouldn't rule out a return even if quarterback Tom Brady doesn't. But he has never played with another quarterback in his 11-year career, and it's natural to assume Gronkowski will wait to see what Brady does.
"It will factor into the situation," Gronkowski said. "He's got to do what he's got to do for himself and his family, no doubt about that. But then for myself, I got to do what I got to do, you know, what's best for myself, see where I'm at, how I'm feeling -- all that type of stuff. So then once I make that personal decision, then we'll see what his decision is, what goes on, and then from there, you take it from there. You can't really read it or anything until it happens, but every situation could basically be on the plate, for sure. But I got to do what's best for myself first, and then once I make that decision, that's when I can go from there."
When asked whether wide receiver Antonio Brown's release after Week 17 had anything to do with the Bucs' early exit from the postseason -- they fell to the Rams 30-27 on a last-second field goal by Matt Gay in Sunday's divisional round -- Gronkowski said no.
"I would say in the locker room, it didn't. There's so many experienced pros in our locker room. It's not like a young locker room or anything like that, where it's just all young guys and never been in an adverse situation before, so we have a lot -- we've got Tom, he's seen many situations in sports before, we have many experienced coaches that have been in a lot of things before," he told TMZ.
The Bucs had gotten to a point in Week 17 where in addition to being without Brown and wide receiver Chris Godwin, who had gone to injured reserve after suffering a torn ACL in Week 15, they were missing Cyril Grayson (hamstring), Breshad Perriman (hip, abdomen) and Jaelon Darden (concussion). Tyler Johnson played just one snap in the fourth quarter of that game because of a rib injury. Tight end Cameron Brate had to line up in the slot because the Bucs had no more healthy receivers.
"When things like that happen, it's a big story, but you've just got to focus on what you've got to focus on, and that's what a lot of guys did in the locker room," Gronkowski said. "A lot of professionals in the locker room just stayed focused on what you've got to do, and that's basically what I did too. The outside noise -- it can affect you if you let it get to you. But if you just block it out -- that's one thing I learned in New England big-time in the nine years I was there -- block out the outside noise, and I got to agree with that."