Rob Gronkowski is back in the NFL, and one needn't look further than his display name for his Wednesday video conference for confirmation.
Self-titled Roberto, Gronkowski met with media members virtually one day after both his intent to come out of retirement to join his old pal Tom Brady on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and his trade to achieve such a reality became public. Those wondering how the slimmer Gronkowski might fare in the physical pro game received a quality answer from Gronkowski, who said he's under 15 pounds from his playing weight and is confident he can get back to a good playing weight before the season.
The secret: More protein and good fats.
"I actually woke up this morning and I was in my boxers and I weighed myself...it's incredible, man. I'm 250, I feel good," Gronkowski said. "My body feels good. I definitely worked over the last year too. It's not like I've taken off and done nothing. I mean, at some points, there was a good month or two where I didn't do anything. My body just needed that time to rest, needed that time to heal. I would say that I lost some weight too to take some pressure off my joints, to take some pressure off my body and I feel like it was totally the right decision.
"To put on 10 pounds to get to 260, I think will be pretty easy, if I need to get back up there which I feel like I kinda want to. It just takes a couple extra protein shakes with some extra almond butter, some extra blueberries. You just got to load it up and have a couple shakes a day on top of all your meals to put that weight back on."
Bulking season ended when winter turned to spring, but not for Gronkowski, who will have to pack on another 10-12 pounds to replicate his size he used to exploit defensive mismatches and score 79 touchdowns over his nine NFL seasons. He'll attempt to do so as part of an Buccaneers offense that is already stocked with weapons galore, joining receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and tight ends O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate in a deep pass-catching corps. Gronkowski mentioned those new teammates, and he'll have time to nail the proper pronunications of their names after calling Godwin "Goodwin" and Brate "Brat". As the conference demonstrated Wednesday, he'll have plenty of tools at his disposal to get familiar with the new guys in pewter and red.
Gronkowski won't have to make much of an effort to reconnect with Brady, with whom he spent almost all of his nine-year career. They'll have to work together to learn a new offense, though, under Bucs coach Bruce Arians.
"We can't really exhibit how I'm going to used, how the offense is because I really don't know much, but I'm sure when I get there I want to show my talents for sure, I want to show what I can do," Gronkowski said. "I want to show that I can go up the seam. I want to show that I can run an out route, an in cut. I want to show that I can do what I've been doing my whole career, especially how I was when I was in the prime of going out there and making big things happen.
"I'm sure if I'm running up the seam and I'm running pretty fast up the seam, he's gonna add some seam plays."
It's likely Arians will do just that, especially considering he's known for wanting to push the ball down the field. The coach now has the players necessary to produce fireworks in Tampa.
As for doing the dirty work, Gronkowski is more than willing. He's not wasting his time back in the NFL by even considering avoiding the less-glamorous responsibilities of playing tight end.
"I am down to do anything. I'm going back into the game. I'm feeling good," Gronkowski said. "Like he asked me, 'What does the name Gronk mean?' The name Gronk means I'm down for anything on the football field. If they need me to block, I'm down to block. If they need me to spread out wide, I'll spread out wide. If it's best for the team to be out there for 60 percent of the plays, I'm totally down to be out there for 60 percent of the plays.
"So whatever's best for the team, whatever helps out the team, I'm going to give it my all, no matter how many plays. If it's 60 percent or 100 percent of the plays, I'm down for whatever. And I don't mind taking a break even."
Gronkowski tackled a variety of other topics during his conference:
-- Gronkowski's injury history was seen as a primary factor in his retirement after nine seasons, punctuated by a gutsy performance in Super Bowl LIII, in which the tight end battled through back and quadriceps injuries to help the Patriots to a 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams. He discussed his health Wednesday, which still needs some addressing before the 2020 season begins.
"There was hands down that I was in very painful situations. Even my very last game," Gronkowski said. "For four weeks, I couldn't walk that well after the Super Bowl game we won from my quad contusion. And I actually still have a little indent from it too but I want to get rid of it. I'm going to get rid of it, that's my goal. That's one of my last final things I got to get fixed on my body and it's that quad contusion I took from the Super Bowl over a year ago. There's still a little dent in my quad from it, but it's all for the love of the game.
"I was in some pain at some serious times, even while playing the game, even in games, but that's what I did the last year. I took care of myself. I let my body heal. I let my body rest. I let my body get the treatment that it needed. I feel like I broke all the scar tissue that was in my body, got rid of all the inflammation in my body that was holding my back my last year I felt like. It feels good."
-- Looking forward, Gronkowski feels he's better equipped to now make it through a campaign healthy after a year off.
"Definitely going forward, I definitely feel like this is an opportunity to play the game of football and play a whole season the real way that it's supposed to be played," Gronkowski said. "When you're a young buck, you just go out there and do what you got to do. You don't really know how to take care of your body. You don't really know what to do. You're a young buck.
"But now, being 30 years old, it's going to be a whole different mindset, it's going a transition that I've never done before, and the whole focus is going to be taking care of my body and doing the best that I can on the football field and not be distracted by anything else. I'm excited for the opportunity and excited to see how I hold up and how I play throughout a whole season taking care of myself."
-- Retiring is no easy decision, and neither is attempting a comeback. Gronkowski said he couldn't ignore the desire within him to give it another go.
"I got many questions throughout the whole time I was retired, however long ago that was, that was about a year and a month ago. I was getting questions all the time," Gronkowski said. "I was getting opportunities throughout the whole retirement to come back, which is special and I'm definitely blessed to have those opportunities big time. I said it from the beginning that I wouldn't come back unless if I'm feeling it, unless if I'm feeling good, feeling healthy and feeling like I'm ready to go. And now, this is the case, this is the time.
"It definitely wasn't last year, my body 100 percent needed a rest. ... I didn't have that fire underneath me but I knew I loved the game of football. I always have, that's why I've always played it. That's why I had a nine-year career with the New England Patriots.
"So, I was feeling good. I wouldn't say I had no fire last year even at the end of the season to come back but as the time rolled on, the last couple weeks, I started really picking it up. My body started feeling good. My desire to play the game of football was coming back and I knew that by the time the season would be rolling around again, I would want to be back out there."
-- Brady's presence in Tampa was undoubtedly a major influence on Gronkowski's decision to return, but he was never pressured to come back. Consistent contact with his own quarterback helped, though.
"We had a little conversation. There was no pressure on either side," Gronkowski said. "We actually got together probably like two months ago just to throw the ball. I haven't thrown the football or even touched a football since last year when we threw out at UCLA when that was news everywhere. I always knew in the back of my mind, too, that I love the game of football and if it ever sparked me again, I did want to be ready. ... We rarely talked about what his decision was going to be, where I'm at but we did talk about it for one second. I told him, 'Hey, kinda getting that fire underneath me again,' I told him.
"I said I'm definitely interested in your decision that you make. I didn't put any pressure him but I said, 'If there's a right opportunity out there and you go somewhere, even if you go back to the Patriots, there's a possible chance that I will definitely love to reconnect.' And that's where the conversation started a little bit and he was all fired up and juiced up about it. That was something pretty cool at the moment and in the end it just happened over time, which is pretty neat."
-- Some might think Gronkowski's move south with Brady signaled a difficulty playing for Patriots coach Bill Belichick, but Gronkowski didn't entirely agree with that sentiment. He agreed New England isn't a place for everyone, but not because Belichick is too rigid in his ways.
"Coach says it all the time, 'It's not an easy place to play.' And I'm very thankful for the nine years that I had with the New England Patriots, hands down," Gronkowski said. "I learned so much under that organization. I've learned so much football from the best coach, hand downs, that will not change, in all of football, Coach Belichick. I've learned more football than I ever had in my whole, entire life under Coach Belichick, and just learning so much under the organization of Mr. Kraft too. They're two guys that I look up to and will always looks up to.
... "I'm not gonna sit here and say it's an easy organization to play for and I've also never played for another organization. I haven't even been down to Tampa yet so I'm not even sure what to expect. But I know that the New England Patriots, hands down, it is not the easiest place to play but it gets you right, gets you mentally right, gets you physically right. And what I've learned there, I'm definitely going to take it with me."
-- Gronkowski mentioned his love for the state of Florida as an influence in his decision to return to football and reunite with Brady in Tampa. The tight end also revealed he'd once owned a house in Tampa, but sold it because he wasn't able to spend enough time there to justify having it.
"I did have a house down there back in the day," Gronkowski said. "To tell you the truth, I just like Florida a lot. And that's what was really appealing to me, too... Just couldn't (go) down there too much so sold the house so I kinda know the Tampa area a little bit. Nothing too crazy. Don't know the ins and outs like that but I just love Florida, love the weather down there. Love the opportunities it brings. I'm a t-shirt, shorts guy, rolling out of bed with the sandals so that's going to make it easy down there in Tampa Bay."