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Rob Gronkowski decision on 2022 season expected by late July

Matt Johnson

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will head into training camp viewed as a Super Bowl favorite even without Rob Gronkowski on the roster. However, the franchise remains hopeful that its future Hall of Fame tight end is back at the team facility before Week 1.

It’s been an offseason of mixed messages from the 33-year-old NFL star. Amid rumors of Tom Brady retiring, Gronkowski indicated he’d be interested in playing this fall even if Brady walked away. He later expressed an openness to teaming up with Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Ever since, the 6-foot-6 tight end has seemingly weighed retirement heavily. Tampa Bay kept exercising patience, providing one of its best offensive weapons in 2021 all the time he needed. With training camp approaching, we might finally be headed towards a decision.

According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, a final decision on playing in 2022 or retiring for good is likely to come around “late July” with Tampa Bay fully supporting his timeline for an announcement.

Will Rob Gronkowski play in 2022?

NFL: Super Bowl LV-Kansas City Chiefs vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Gronkowski is taking as much time on a decision as he wishes. He greatly enjoyed a one-year hiatus in 2019, taking in every opportunity for his body to rest and enjoy life as a retired athlete with tens of millions of dollars.

He only returned in 2020 because Brady joined the Buccaneers, providing a chance for a change of scenery in a new environment. While he might have briefly considered playing for another quarterback, the expectation remains Brady is the only quarterback Gronkowski is willing to play for at this point in his career.

Tampa Bay is taking the right approach. It knows that Gronkowski is likely going to play in 2022, he simply wants to avoid as much training camp as possible. Because he’s not currently under contract, the four-time Super Bowl champion isn’t subject to mandatory fines for missed practices.

Should Tom Brady have stayed retired?

Ultimately, it would be a huge surprise if Gronkowski isn’t on the field with the Buccaneers this fall. It only takes him a few weeks to get ready for the grind of an NFL season, meaning he has at least another month to enjoy life before committing to football. Once he returns, an elite Buccaneers’ offense will become even stronger and Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl odds will rise.

Related: NFL defense rankings – Huge shakeups for top 20 defense before training camp