Bank on It: Gronk Will Return to NFL
Rob Gronkowski ... retired at age 29.
Sorry, not buying it.
Gronk may not play opening day in September. He may not even play again for the Patriots.
But it says here that No. 87 will return to the National Football League, probably when his body starts to feel better and his wrestling/acting/broadcasting career doesn’t offer the type of thrills that catching passes in front of 65,000 fans does.
The goofy Gronkowski persona has been a good -- and profitable -- one for one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history.
But that’s selling Gronkowski short. Way short. Coaches marveled at his ability to read defenses and learn playbooks. He’s far smarter than he’s let on, even if that goes against his reputation as a wild party man.
Playing professional football is a hazardous job and Gronkowski, even at 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, wasn’t able to escape injury and pain. He entered the NFL with a balky back and the list of his injuries during his nine years with the Patriots runs longer than the arrest record of Pac Man Jones.
I don’t blame Gronkowski for hanging ’em up. He was a shell of his former self this past season, even though his last catch, which set up the lone touchdown, was the biggest play of New England’s 13-3 Super Bowl victory over the Rams in February.
But Gronk had a productive playoffs and some time off from football will do wonders for his body.
Heck, he’s 29. I have T-shirts older than that.
Gronkowski probably looked at the approaching 2019 season with fatigue. But what if he could skip mini-camp? And training camp? What if he could join a team down the stretch this season?
More likely, what will his approach to football look like if he takes the 2019 season off? Betcha his outlook on the risks of playing in the NFL look differently after he sits out an entire season and his body stops aching.
Look at Jason Witten.
Less than a calendar year after announcing his retirement to join ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” as an analyst, Witten decided to leave the broadcast booth and return for a 16th season with the Dallas Cowboys.
Some players leave the NFL and instantly miss the paycheck. But Witten was making great coin in the booth and didn’t have to worry about a safety trying to take his head off on a crossing route.
Why give up the safety of broadcasting for the violence on the field? The adrenaline of playing, the type of buzz you can’t get away from the field.
Jim Brown and Barry Sanders walked away from pro football at young ages and never returned. It can be done. But the lure of catching passes again from Tom Brady -- or some other quarterback -- will ultimately get the best of Gronk.
He hasn’t caught his last touchdown pass. He hasn’t spiked his last football. He hasn’t blocked his last defensive end 10 yards down field.
Gronk will return to the NFL. It’s just a question of when.
Saturday night was a tough one for two former UMass Lowell assistant hockey coaches who worked under Norm Bazin.
In Stevens Point, Wisc., Wisconsin-Stevens Point scored in overtime to defeat Norwich University, 3-2, to win the Division 3 national title.
Norwich, riding a 19-game unbeaten streak, is coached by Cam Ellsworth, who wrapped up his first season at the Northfield, Vt., school after seven seasons at UMass Lowell.
Wisconsin-Stevens Point finished 29-0-2.
Meanwhile, in Buffalo, N.Y., in the Atlantic Hockey championship game, AIC downed Niagara, 3-2, also in overtime.
Niagara is coached by Jason Lammers, who coached at UML from 2011-15. Lammers did an outstanding job, as Niagara was picked to finish last in the Atlantic in the preseason coaches and media polls.
A victory would have propelled Niagara into the NCAA Tournament.
Follow Barry Scanlon on Twitter@BarryScanlonSun