Rob Gronkowski has caught 76 touchdown passes in eight seasons with New England. (Mark Humphrey/Associated Press)

Fear not, Patriots fans: You’ll still have plenty of Gronk in your lives. Rob Gronkowski, New England’s fun-loving, all-pro tight end, announced Tuesday that he was returning to the team, after he missed the start of offseason workouts while mulling retirement.

“I met with coach [Bill Belichick] today and informed him I will be back for the 2018 season with the Pats,” Gronkowski wrote on his Instagram account. “I have been working out, staying in shape and feel great.

“Looking forward to another championship run.”

In turn, the Patriots were said to be no longer interested in possibly dealing away the ninth-year veteran. “There will be no Gronkowski trade this season,” reported ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who also quoted Drew Rosenhaus, the tight end’s agent, as saying the meeting “was very positive” and “Rob is committed.”

The announcement came a day after Tom Brady’s agent, Don Yee, told ESPN that he expects the Patriots quarterback to play this season, quelling his own retirement speculation. “Tom’s intentions have not changed,” Yee said Monday. “He’s consistently said he’ll play beyond this contract and into his mid-40s, or until he feels he isn’t playing at a championship level.”

On Saturday, Gronkowski had appeared to be pulling a troll job of sorts on the Patriots, as he appeared at Gillette Stadium, the team’s home field, only to pronounce his devotion to dirt-bike racing. Clad in gear befitting the Monster Energy Supercross event, he offered a jokey response to being asked about his “status” for the 2018 season.

“My status is doing really great,” Gronkowski said (via the Boston Herald). “I’ve been riding dirt bikes. I’ve been training really hard. I can vroom-vroom really good. I can ride that bike like no other.”

Saying that he had “dirt-biking skills to work on,” Gronkowski told reporters that he would not be attending the Patriots’ workouts, which are not mandatory. Asked about the possibility of retirement, he said with a smirk, “It depends how my racing skills go today.”

Gronkowski offered a more somber take immediately after the Patriots were beaten by the Eagles in the Super Bowl, telling media members, “I’m definitely going to look at my future, for sure. I’m going to sit down in the next couple weeks and see where I’m at.”

Still just 28, Gronkowski could play for several more years in the NFL if he stays healthy, cementing a Pro Football Hall of Fame candidacy that already appears very likely. However, health has been a major issue, as he missed large portions of the 2012, 2013 and 2016 seasons and hasn’t played all 16 games since 2011, while suffering from a litany of injuries, including a concussion in January’s AFC championship game.

One of the league’s most popular players, Gronkowski has had a lucrative career as a pitchman for several companies and has reportedly considered a Hollywood career in action movies. In other words, he has options outside of football, but he’ll be spending at least one more season as a literally huge mismatch for opposing defenses.

It’s possible that the Patriots are offering some extra financial incentives for him to return, as they did last year in re-working his contract, which has two years left, to pay him more money if he attained certain thresholds. “The only question is what is his salary going to be,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said Tuesday. “I would expect that Gronkowski and the team are going to discuss that.”

Rapopport added that Gronkowski might not actually be back with the Patriots until their mandatory minicamp in June, unless his deal gets sweetened before then. In the meantime, he’ll likely be advised by the team to stay off dirt bikes.

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