New England Patriots

By Matt McCarthy,

Many have suggested that Rob Gronkowski could be persuaded out of retirement at some point during the 2019 season.

But if Gronk were to consider returning to the Patriots for the stretch run, it sounds like he would need to feel comfortable about the condition of his back.

According to Albert Breer of The MMQB, Gronkowski dealt with a bulging disc in his back during the 2018 season, an ailment that played a part in his decision to step away from the game.

Breer cited that factor as his reasoning for why “it’d be difficult for the [Patriots], or anyone, to hold out hope of a Rob Gronkowski return late in 2019.”

“One reason why Gronkowski scuffled through 2018 was a mid-season battle with a bulging disk in his back,” Breer wrote. “By the end of the year, it was no longer a factor. But I’m told that knowing how close he might have been to a fourth back surgery, and the implications that could have down the line, was one factor in his decision to retire.”

“So just logically, it’d be hard to imagine that concern would go away at 30 years old. Or, at the very least, would be one mental hurdle he’d have to clear if he were to come back again,” Breer added.

If Gronkowski chooses to stay retired because of his back, it would be hard to blame him. A discectomy is a serious surgery, and he had three of them before he turned 28.

If quality of life after football was a major factor in Gronk’s decision to retire, it very well might be the reason he chooses to stay retired, even if the Patriots come calling.

You can hear Matt McCarthy on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.