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Pats' Robert Kraft wants Rob Gronkowski back for playoffs

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The stunning announcement was made on Instagram in March and sparked an outsized reaction to an all-time player saying goodbye.

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was retiring, a move that had been intimated, expected and was still shocking.

The aftermath was interesting, though. When Gronk was at his locker inside Gillette Stadium removing his personal belongings for perhaps the last time, things were much quieter.

Owner Robert Kraft walked up to him to say goodbye. According to sources, Kraft delivered a clear and concise message that would resonate for months.

Kraft told Gronkowski that he wants him to return for November, December, and a playoff run. If that happened, the team not only would welcome him back but would remain hopeful that it happens.

Time is running out for Gronk to make a return. According to the rules, the last day for Gronkowski and the team to agree to grant him an official return to the roster would be Saturday, Nov. 30 -- the day before the team's Week 13 game.

Because he's on the reserve/retired list, if he doesn't come off it by then, he's not eligible to play. Gronkowski has not turned in his retirement papers yet, but that is often considered a formality and is not required to remain retired.

One person who has recently communicated with Gronkowski said he has shown no signs of coming back to play.

In public comments since August, Gronkowski has remained consistent that the door is open for a return, though his body would have to feel right to do it. He also has lost some weight and would need to gradually build back up to his playing weight. He said that process would take about a month.

"If I get the gut feeling, that's what I would need," Gronkowski told the RapSheet and Friends podcast in August, when asked what it would take for a return. "My soul would have to be on fire, and I wouldn't just listen to it for one day. It would have to be a consistent basis, too."

That is exactly what Kraft is hoping for.

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet.

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