How will returning Rob Gronkowski play for 1st time as 30-something?

A surefire Hall of Fame resume already lies in the rear view for Rob Gronkowski.

Nonetheless, when the 2020 season rolls around, Gronkowski won't just be playing for a team other than the New England Patriots for the first time, but he'll also be playing for the first time in his 30s.

Having celebrated his 31st birthday on Thursday, Gronkowski's debut in the 2020 season as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer will see him also play for the first time past his 30th birthday, which happened while he was retired.

So as an upcoming NFL season overflows with questions, one more is just how will a thirty-something Gronk fare in the NFL.

When Gronkowski retired, he had 79 touchdown catches -- the most all-time by a tight end under 30 years old and third overall for any player younger than 30. He trailed only Hall of Famers Randy Moss (101 touchdowns before 30) and Jerry Rice (95). Gronkowski's touchdown pace for a tight end was leaps and bounds in front of anyone else at his position, with Antonio Gate's 59 scores before 30 a distant second, per NFL Research.

The big-bodied Gronk has been a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses for the duration of his career and has provided the type of end zone production never before seen by a tight end at this juncture of his career.

How his body responds from a litany of injuries and a season away will likely tell the tale of future success.

However, of note, the best of the best in the new age of offensive tight ends have done plenty in their 30s.

Tony Gonzalez (677 receptions, 7,317 yards and 55 touchdowns in his 30s), Gates (476/5,618/57), Shannon Sharpe (350/4,069/28), Wesley Walls (344/4,124/45) and another future Hall of Famer still chugging along, Jason Witten (519/5,068/31), have each produced impressive statistics in their 30s.

No doubt aiding Gronkowski is that he and his five Pro Bowls will be part of an offense with 23 Pro Bowls among skill position players –- Tom Brady (14), Mike Evans (three) and Chris Godwin (one). That ties the 2001 Raiders for the most combined Pro Bowls by skill position starters in their first season together, per NFL Research.

Still, just how Gronkowski fares and holds up through a season is a quandary that will linger for the offseason.

While there's reason enough to ponder what Tampa Bay dreams may come with Brady playing the season at 43 years of age, Gronk returning to the field at 31 is also an intriguing question.

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