Heading into Sunday night's regular-season opener against the Dallas Cowboys, the Buccaneers are not counting on Gronkowski to return, sources told ESPN.
The Buccaneers initially had hoped that later this season, if they were in the thick of the race for a playoff spot, Brady could help convince Gronkowski to return. But sources told ESPN that at least for the time being, until they hear differently, the Buccaneers believe that Gronkowski has moved on with his life.
In the unlikely scenario that Gronkowski would return later this season, the circumstances would have to be completely right, according to sources. The five-time Pro Bowl tight end would want an opportunity with a Super Bowl contender that needed him and made a return to the NFL worth his while.
Gronkowski, 33, publicly announced his retirement in June, ending an 11-year NFL career highlighted by four Super Bowl championships -- all won with Brady.
Although they will be without the 6-foot-6 Gronkowski, the Buccaneers believe they have added a receiver that can help compensate for his absence. Those who have watched the Buccaneers this summer were beyond impressed with how 6-foot-3 wide receiver Julio Jones looked and how he bonded with Brady.