'Grateful' Gronkowski announces retirement

Gronk's retirement 'a shock' to Patriots (0:54)

Sal Paolantonio and Mike Reiss react to Rob Gronkowski's retirement, with Reiss saying it's a shock to the Patriots. (0:54)

Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement from the NFL via an Instagram post on Sunday. After nine seasons with the New England Patriots, he is putting an end to a career in which he transcended the tight end position and was one of the league's most colorful personalities.

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It all started at 20 years old on stage at the NFL draft when my dream came true, and now here I am about to turn 30 in a few months with a decision I feel is the biggest of my life so far. I will be retiring from the game of football today. I am so grateful for the opportunity that Mr. Kraft and Coach Belichick gave to me when drafting my silliness in 2010. My life experiences over the last 9 years have been amazing both on and off the field. The people I have meet, the relationships I have built, the championships I have been apart of, I just want to thank the whole New England Patriots organization for every opportunity I have been giving and learning the great values of life that I can apply to mine. Thank you to all of Pats Nation around the world for the incredible support since I have been apart of this 1st class organization. Thank you for everyone accepting who I am and the dedication I have put into my work to be the best player I could be. But now its time to move forward and move forward with a big smile knowing that the New England Patriots Organization, Pats Nation, and all my fans will be truly a big part of my heart for rest of my life. It was truly an incredible honor to play for such a great established organization and able to come in to continue and contribute to keep building success. To all my current and past teammates, thank you for making each team every year special to be apart of. I will truly miss you guys. Cheers to all who have been part of this journey, cheers to the past for the incredible memories, and a HUGE cheers to the uncertain of whats next.

A post shared by Rob Gronkowski (@gronk) on

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady shared his reaction in an Instagram post.

Gronkowski called Patriots owner Robert Kraft on Sunday to inform him of his decision to retire, a team source said.

"In the nine years that I have known Rob Gronkowski, I have never known him to have a bad day," Kraft said in a statement later Sunday. "He always has a youthful exuberance about him and is a joy to be around. As a player, he earned the respect of his coaches and teammates for his hard work, preparation, selfless attitude and the sheer dominance of his game. 'Gronk' quickly became a fan favorite and the most dominant player at his position for nearly a decade. I look forward to honoring him in the near future as both a Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Famer. "

Coach Bill Belichick said it was his "pleasure and a privilege to coach" Gronkowski in their nine years together, and credited him as a major reason the Patriots won championships.

"Rob's impact on our team and organization was felt in many ways," Belichick said in his statement. "In the ultimate team sport, Rob was a great, great teammate. His production spoke for itself, but his daily attitude, unmistakably positive energy wherever he went and toward whoever he touched will never be forgotten. Rob will leave an indelible mark on the Patriots organization and the game as among the best, most complete players at his position to ever play."

Gronkowski's 79 touchdown receptions since he joined the Patriots as a second-round draft choice in 2010 led the NFL. He had 10 or more touchdown receptions in five seasons, which is the most by a tight end in NFL history.

Gronkowski played in 115 regular-season games, totaling 521 receptions for 7,861 yards. He played in 16 playoff games, with 81 receptions for 1,163 yards and 12 touchdowns -- all records for a tight end.

Gronkowski's 12 postseason touchdown receptions are tied for second in NFL history among all players, behind Jerry Rice (22). He has four career 100-yard receiving games in the playoffs, tying him with Vernon Davis and Keith Jackson for the most by a tight end.

An often overlooked part of Gronkowski's game was his powerful blocking, which made him a rarity in today's game: a true "combination" tight end, equally effective as a blocker and pass-catcher.

In the days leading up to the Patriots' victory against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII, Gronkowski discussed the physical toll football had taken on him.

"The season is a grind. It's up and down. I'm not going to lie and sit here and say every week is the best. Not at all. You go up. You go down. You can take some serious hits," he said. "Try to imagine getting hit all the time and trying to be where you want to be every day in life. It's tough. It's difficult. To take hits to the thigh, to take hits to your head, abusing your body, isn't what your brain wants. When your body is abused, it can bring down your mood. You have to be able to deal with that, too, throughout the season. You have to be able to deal with that going into games."

Schefter: Injuries took their toll on Gronk's body

Adam Schefter says Rob Gronkowski's injuries took a toll on his body, and he wanted to enter the next phase of his life.

The 6-foot-6, 268-pound Gronkowski has a lengthy injury history but has taken pride in bouncing back from various ailments, which have included surgeries on his back, forearm and knee.

Gronkowski, who turns 30 on May 14, was reflective at times leading into Super Bowl LIII.

"I'm really satisfied with how my whole career has been. Super satisfied. There's ups and downs, but the thing is always coming back," he said. "There's so many examples of great players here before me, when I was young, to look up to and see how they bounce back when something adverse comes their way."

Gronkowski's upbeat personality was infectious among his teammates, something that in some ways began the day the Patriots selected him with the 42nd overall pick out of Arizona.

"There was, like, a big mosh pit on stage, and I think everybody was excited to see that," Brady recalled in the days leading up to Super Bowl LIII. "I remember [receiver] Wes [Welker] being like, 'We got this guy, and this is the kind of attitude we need.' Gronk has cut it loose. I think everyone appreciates him."

At the same time, Brady highlighted a different side of Gronkowski, as he has long been one of the most philanthropic players on the team. In 2016, Gronkowski was the team's recipient of the Ron Burton Community Service Award.

"For as big and physical as he is, he is a gentle, kind man," Brady said.

Gronkowski's notable accomplishments on the field include:

  • In 2011, he set NFL single-season records for touchdowns (18) and receiving yards (1,327) by a tight end and became the first tight end to lead the conference in scoring with 108 points.

  • Between 2010 and '12, he became the first tight end in NFL history with three straight 10-plus touchdown seasons.

  • He led all tight ends in receiving yards for the fourth time in 2017, trailing only Tony Gonzalez (seven) and Shannon Sharpe (five) for most seasons leading the league in receiving yards as a tight end.

  • He became the only tight end in NFL history to post three seasons of 1,000 yards receiving and 10-plus touchdowns (2011, 2014, 2015).

  • He reached 1,000 yards receiving for the fourth time in his career in 2017, tying Gonzalez and Jason Witten for the most 1,000-yard seasons by a tight end in NFL history. His 80 touchdowns (79 receiving, one rushing) are the most in Patriots history. Only Antonio Gates and Philip Rivers have connected on more touchdowns between a tight end and quarterback in NFL history than Gronkowski's 78 with Brady.

  • He recorded his 50th touchdown reception in his 59th game, which was 33 games earlier than the next-fastest tight end.