(Reuters) - Rob Gronkowski is feeling healthy again and has rediscovered his love of the sport he walked away from after mounting injuries zapped his desire to ever play in the NFL again.
Gronkowski, 31, announced his retirement in March 2019 after nine season and three championships with the New England Patriots, saying he had no interest in returning given the sport’s physical and mental toll.
But now he says the fire is back.
“I needed to let my body heal,” he told Reuters.
“I’ve spent the last year focusing on my health, making sure I’m eating right, hydrating properly, working on my pliability, getting my mind right, and doing everything I can to not only heal my body but improve it,” he said.
“Now, I’ve regained my juice and I feel like I have that passion back and I’m excited to play again.”
The tight end said the stars aligned for him to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason when he learned that former team mate Tom Brady was heading there to help revive the struggling franchise.
“Tom was the icing on the cake,” he said of the six-time Super Bowl champion.
“It’s a rare opportunity to be able to start fresh and also play with a quarterback you’ve built chemistry with for nine years,” he said.
“So all the factors lined up. And on top of that, it was an awesome opportunity to be near my mom who lives in Florida.”
The fun-loving and gregarious Gronkowski, also known simply as “Gronk,” said he has made the most of his time in quarantine due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Unable to travel, he spends his downtime playing make-believe on the basketball court, dunking on an imaginary LeBron James.
More traditional pursuits such as bike-riding, trampoline-jumping, and even amateur juggling are also on the menu.
With gyms closed, he’s also become a personal trainer to others stuck at home.
He leads workout sessions on Fitplan, an app on Samsung Smart TVs as part of Samsung Health here that tracks the user's fitness progress across their smart devices in real-time.
“My workout sessions involve a lot of functional strength training, band work, and core movements,” he said.
“You’ll be dripping sweat at the end but you’ll have fun.”
Looking ahead to next season, Gronkowski and Brady will have the opportunity to do something that’s never been done before in NFL history - win a Super Bowl on their home field.
February’s championship game will be held at Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium, but he said he isn’t getting ahead of himself.
“My ultimate goal is to win games and in order to do that, you have to focus on one game at a time,” he said.
“I’m so thankful for the three Super Bowls that I won with the Patriots and I’m looking forward to potentially being able to play and have the chance to win a Super Bowl on my home field with my new team this season,” he said.
“That would be epic.”
Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Ken Ferris