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Rob Gronkowski threatened to retire after he almost got traded to the Lions

The rift between the Patriots and Gronk was deeper than many knew.

Houston Texans v New England Patriots Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Things were not good between the New England Patriots and Rob Gronkowski the past offseason, but few knew exactly how deep the rift had become. On Sunday, Adam Schefter reportedthat the Patriots and Lions were close to a mammoth trade that would have sent Gronkowski to Detroit, but it fell apart when Gronk threatened to retire if he was traded. And in a rare move for a player in this situation, Gronk confirmed it.

“When Gronkowski discovered he could be traded to Detroit that week, he threatened to retire rather than go to the Lions, according to sources. Gronkowski even declined to return the Lions’ calls, despite the fact that former Patriots executive Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia were leading the Detroit organization.”

Gronkowski backed up the report after the Lions’ 26-10 win over the Patriots on Sunday night:

The deal, which was set to take place the week of the NFL Draft, isn’t a huge surprise if you were paying attention to the surprisingly public retirement saga that plagued the Patriots and Gronkowski leading up to the 2018 season. Initially sources close to Gronk believed the 28-year-old tight end was going to retire after the 2017 season took a bigger toll on him physically than he was prepared for, but ultimately in April he announced he was returning to the Patriots. Behind the scenes there were reports that Gronk would only remain with the team is Tom Brady stayed as quarterback. There were whispers that Brady was contemplating a retirement of his own, before he also decided to return for the 2018 season.

Some believe the Patriots’ high-pressure, “all in” mantra doesn’t jive with Gronkowski’s more relaxed and care-free approach to the game, which led to speculation that Gronk was subtly making a point when he posted “Be FREE, Be HAPPY” on Instagram when Danny Amendola signed with the Miami Dolphins in free agency.

The news that Gronkowski was almost traded isn’t a huge shock. The possibility of him being shipped to Detroit was a known quantity following the draft, however, the lengths he was willing to go to avoid that scenario — including the possibility of retirement, were not.

Schefter, and later Gronk himself, clarified that the issue wasn’t Detroit, but that Gronk couldn’t see himself playing for another team. Not even a former Patriots’ braintrust was enough to entice him to change teams — which means the saga of possible retirement will linger in New England when it comes to Gronk.