For Jets fans, the nightmare of a wide-open Rob Gronkowski streaking down the middle of the field is over.
The former Patriots' tight end announced his retirement Sunday in a post on his Instagram page. It'd been speculated over the last few seasons Gronkowski would step away from the game, given the injuries the 29-year-old endured and the physical toll his massive frame was exposed to throughout a 16-game slate year in and year out.
"Thank you to all of Pats Nation around the world for the incredible support since I have been apart of this 1st class organization," he wrote in the lengthy message. "Thank you for everyone accepting who I am and the dedication I have put into my work to be the best player I could be. But now its time to move forward and move forward with a big smile knowing that the New England Patriots Organization, Pats Nation, and all my fans will be truly a big part of my heart for rest of my life."
It all started at 20 years old on stage at the NFL draft when my dream came true, and now here I am about to turn 30 in a few months with a decision I feel is the biggest of my life so far. I will be retiring from the game of football today. I am so grateful for the opportunity that Mr. Kraft and Coach Belichick gave to me when drafting my silliness in 2010. My life experiences over the last 9 years have been amazing both on and off the field. The people I have meet, the relationships I have built, the championships I have been apart of, I just want to thank the whole New England Patriots organization for every opportunity I have been giving and learning the great values of life that I can apply to mine. Thank you to all of Pats Nation around the world for the incredible support since I have been apart of this 1st class organization. Thank you for everyone accepting who I am and the dedication I have put into my work to be the best player I could be. But now its time to move forward and move forward with a big smile knowing that the New England Patriots Organization, Pats Nation, and all my fans will be truly a big part of my heart for rest of my life. It was truly an incredible honor to play for such a great established organization and able to come in to continue and contribute to keep building success. To all my current and past teammates, thank you for making each team every year special to be apart of. I will truly miss you guys. Cheers to all who have been part of this journey, cheers to the past for the incredible memories, and a HUGE cheers to the uncertain of whats next.
Gronkowski was a part of three Super Bowl titles, the most recent coming after this past season. During his nine-year career, the University of Arizona product caught 521 passes for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns. He averaged 15.1 yards per catch.
Gronkowski was particularly lethal against the Jets. In 15 games, he caught 65 balls for 818 yards and nine scores.
"It's obviously good news for the Jets," said Jets owner Christopher Johnson, who went on to say Gronkowski was the type of player he wished played for the Jets and not a division rival for the past nine years.
Even Jets safety Jamal Adams saluted Gronkowski, calling it an "absolute honor to line up and compete against the greatest Tight End ever!"
After the Patriots topped the Rams in the Super Bowl last month, Gronkowski said he had not yet arrived at a decision regarding his football future -- similar to the way he approached the previous offseason prior to returning for the 2018-19 campaign.
Obviously, Gronkowski reached a different answer this time around. He retires as one of the most celebrated tight ends and personalities of the modern NFL, but leaves the Patriots with an immediate question mark on offense in the short term.