New England Patriots

Rob Gronkowski is reportedly “pretty certain” he’ll end up returning to the Patriots after seriously considering retirement, but he would do so despite still having “friction” with head coach Bill Belichick.

ESPN’s Jeff Darlington first reported late on Saturday that Gronkowski contemplated retirement at age 28 due to “physical and mental fatigue” from the 2017 season. But as long as Tom Brady remains the Patriots’ starting quarterback, he’s likely to remain their starting tight end for the foreseeable future.

How long that foreseeable future can be seen ahead, at this point, is anyone’s guess. But Darlington’s report includes that there are “lingering frustrations” between Gronkowski and Belichick along with “others” in the Patriots organization. The tight end is reportedly mentally exhausted due to the team’s “high-strung culture” under Belichick.

But apparently, it’s still not bad enough to prevent Gronk from returning to the team. It obviously didn’t affect him on the field on Sundays. However, if it’s to be believed that Gronk was wavering on his desire to play football, that would presumably lead to some doubt on Belichick’s side on whether he wants to move forward with the player. But of course, Gronk is not just any player.

Left-right: Rob Gronkowski, Bill Belichick (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Left-right: Rob Gronkowski, Bill Belichick (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Clearly, reports like these are inevitably going to lead to Gronkowski trade rumors. And at this point, no move Belichick makes should legitimately surprise anyone at this point. But to move on from Gronkowski while he’s still at the height of his game would certainly still be a stunner.

Ultimately, it’s hard not to believe that Gronkowski was also among those to feel some tension within the Patriots in 2017. Darlington’s report tends to corroborate Tom E. Curran’s story in late February that Gronk’s unhappiness goes back to training camp and that he and Belichick still need to clear the air on whatever happened behind the scenes over the course of the season.

But at the end of the day, it appears that Gronkowski will be back on the football field in 2018. It remains to be seen if that’s actually with the Patriots, but the trade rumors have yet to have as much sizzle as the persistent reports of tension in Foxboro. And the team has already proven that even some internal tension can’t keep them from getting back to the Super Bowl.

— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.