“I want to be clear to my fans [who want him to play football again]: I needed to recover. I was not in a good place. Football was bringing me down. And I didn’t like it. And I was losing that joy in life. Like, the joy. I’m sorry right now,” Gronkowski said, fighting through tears during a media event in which he pushed for sports leagues to allow players to use CBD products for pain. “But I really was. And I was fighting through it. And I knew what I signed up for and I knew what I was fighting through, and I knew I just had to fix myself.”
Gronkowski grew emotional again as he described how the pain of the injury from Super Bowl LIII was taking away his joy, using the same expression Luck used Saturday night when he dropped his bombshell retirement announcement. Like Gronkowski, Luck battled through a number of serious injuries and he described a repetitive cycle of “injury, pain, rehab” that was taking a toll on his life.
Gronkowski said he stepped away and stayed largely out of the spotlight after the Patriots’ victory parade to focus on rebuilding his body through diet, workouts and lifestyle changes after a career that “took an absolute beating on my body and my soul. I was hurt both mentally and physically day in and day out,” Gronkowski said. “I decided to walk away from the game for one reason: I had to recover.”
After nine seasons, it was time to “be selfish for once” and the catalyzing moment when “I knew I was done” was the excruciating quadriceps bruise he sustained in Super Bowl LIII.
“I was in tears in my bed after a Super Bowl victory. It didn’t make much sense to me,” Gronkowski said. “For four weeks, I couldn’t even sleep for more than 20 minutes a night, after a Super Bowl win. And I was like damn, this sucks. It didn’t feel good. It was one of the biggest, deepest thigh bruises I ever got.”
It was so deep that 1,000 milliliters (more than 33 ounces) of blood were drained from his thigh over a four-week period.
“It’s not normal. It was like record-breaking at the hospital,” Gronkowski said. “I was like — you know I like to break records — which I do, I think I broke records on and off the field nonstop, with injuries and everything. That’s just what I do.”
He isn’t alone there. It’s the price paid for playing in the NFL. “I feel for Andrew Luck. That’s just the story of what players go through and how it can affect you off the field. Imagine the people around you — for my four weeks just trying to take care of me and I’m not in a good place,” he said. "It just doesn’t bring joy to your life and I had to take a step back to evaluate where I was and how I can recover that level of passion and joy again.”
Gronkowski walked away knowing that his career likely will earn him a spot in the Hall of Fame, but he couldn’t commit to never playing again even though “desire-wise” he isn’t there.
“I truly believe I can get to another level with my body and I’m just in the first stage right now,” Gronkowski shared. “When that time comes down in the future, if I have the desire to play football again, if I feel passionate about football again, if I’m feeling like I need to be out there on the field, I will go back to football.
“But as of right now, that is not the case. It could be the case in six months, it could be the case in two years, it could be the case in three years, it could be the case in three months. But I truly don’t see it in the foreseeable future, in like a week or a month. No, I want to do a different chapter of my life right now.”