TAMPA, Fla. -- The Rob Gronkowski-Tom Brady reunion might have become official when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers acquired the star tight end's rights from the New England Patriots on Tuesday, but the seeds were planted two months ago.
Gronkowski said Wednesday that he linked up with Brady to throw around the football before the quarterback signed a two-year deal with the Bucs on March 20. It was the first time Gronkowski had touched a football since he worked out with Brady last year at UCLA.
Brady didn't say at the time where he was thinking of playing, but Gronkowski, who had signed a contract with the WWE after retiring from football a year ago, indicated he might be interested in a return.
"We rarely talked about what his decision was gonna be, where I'm at," Gronkowski said. "But we did talk about [it] for one second. I told him that -- we talked just real quick -- like, 'Hey, I'm kinda getting that fire underneath me again.'
"I said, 'I'm definitely interested in your decision that you make.' I didn't put any pressure on him. I said, 'If there's a right opportunity out there, and you go somewhere and that opportunity is right -- even if you go back to the Patriots and I feel like the opportunity is right -- there's a possible chance that I would definitely love to reconnect.'"
Gronkowski said Brady "was all fired up and juiced up" about the idea.
"Playing with Tom is special. He's one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time," said Gronkowski, who caught 78 touchdown passes from Brady during their nine years together in New England. "And to build a connection with a quarterback, too, is something special.
"You've seen it many times with many other players -- they can switch teams, and they might not have the same chemistry as they'd have with one of their other quarterbacks. So we have a great chemistry out there. And every time we get together, it's just like the old days. It doesn't matter if we take a month off or six months apart; we just go out there and we're throwing the ball just like it's a normal practice, no matter what."
The Bucs will assume the one remaining year on Gronkowski's deal with the Patriots for $10 million.
Brady had some fun with Gronkowski's return in a video he tweeted Wednesday morning, blowing a conch shell to call in the tight end, who ran in and said, "A little tired, but Gronk reporting."
Having dealt with chronic pain from injuries throughout his nine-year career, Gronkowski said his body is feeling much better, with less inflammation. He currently weighs 250 pounds, which he said has taken pressure off his joints, although he believes it wouldn't be difficult to put on 10 or 15 pounds again, if needed.
"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 I'm feeling like I'm ready to go," Gronkowski said. "And now this is the case. This is the time."
Gronkowski, who turns 31 next month, said that wasn't the case last year -- "my body 100% needed a rest" -- but things have changed and the "fire" has returned.
"My body started feeling good. My desire to play the game of football was coming back," Gronkowski said. "And I knew that, by the time the season would be rolling around again, I would want to be back out there. So that desire, that passion, has lit into me, and I just felt like, in the last couple weeks, it was the right time to hop on before it was too late."