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Rob Gronkowski, in possible finale, as healthy as he's been

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The final interview Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski did this week, with NFL Network, included one last question about retirement. To which Gronkowski responded, "Yes. No. Maybe so." Then laughed.

Speculation that the future Hall of Famer is playing his last game will linger, but this much is clear: Gronkowski is healthier now than he was at almost any other point this season.

Sources say Gronk is feeling 100 percent after battling injuries for most of the season. First, in Week 5, he was dealing with Achilles tendinitis, sources said, an ailment officially listed as an ankle that zapped some of his explosiveness. A back injury followed in Week 7.

Sources said he had a bulging disc in his back that further worked to slow Gronkowski down. It took him more than a month to show signs of recovery and in Week 15 he was finally off the report, only to return for Week 16. No wonder his numbers are down overall.

Gronkowski hasn't been on the injury report during the playoffs, and it's no surprise that he played one of his best games in the AFC title game based on blocking and clutch catches.

"His preparation is incredible," tight ends coach Nick Caley said. "In practice, he takes no reps off. He cares deeply about his fundamentals and technique. He works hard at it. And it's important to him. I can't say enough about how much pride he takes in his blocking."

Asked this week if he's going to retire, Gronkowski said, "I'm thinking about how to get myself to go full go (against the Rams)."

He isn't alone in pondering retirement.

Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty opened up this week about possible retirement, and his brother Jason is also considering it. In fact, Jason is considered more likely to retire at this point after 10 years -- especially if he has to change teams. If Devin is asked to take a pay cut from his $9 million salary, that could accelerate things.

As for the Rams, left tackle Andrew Whitworth is one to watch. While he hasn't spoken publicly about it, those close to him and members of the Rams organization do not know if he's returning. He has not committed to it.

Coach Sean McVay manages the 37-year-old Whitworth well, with limited practice and plenty of rest. And he is due to make nearly $11 million.

But if L.A. wins Sunday, there is the possibility that Whitworth walks off into the sunset.

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet.

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