TAMPA BAY – The Buccaneers and their fans are stuck in yet another game of “will they come back?” when it comes to a star player and unretirement.

The latest case is future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski’s decision to step away from the game. Gronk made the announcement on Tuesday and many have since wondered if or when he comes back.

A popular theory is that Gronkowski simply does’t want to put his body through the rigors of the offseason and that he will return during the season.

Count Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe as someone who thinks Gronkowski’s playing days are over.

“It’s just hard for me to see Gronk coming back in the middle of the season,” Sharpe recently said on Fox Sports’ Undisputed. “I really think this is over for him. And when you look at it, what does he have to prove?”

Sharpe also made a great point that pretty much debunked the midseason return theory.

“If he’s not going to train in the offseason to get ready for the season, what makes you think … that he’s going to do the things necessary to go in the middle of the season?”

Injuries are likely to be the catalyst behind Gronk’s retirement

There’s an obvious reason why Gronkowski retired that many people are missing: injuries.

Gronk initially retired after the 2018 season because of the overall grind of the season and all of the hits he taken over the course of his career.

“The season’s a grind. It’s up and down. I’m not going to lie and sit here and say every week is the best,” Gronkowski told the Boston Globe shortly before he retired in 2019. “Not at all. You go up, you go down. You can take some serious hits. To tell you the truth, just try and 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, 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’ve got to be able to deal with that, too, throughout the season. You’ve got to be able to deal with that in the games.”

Gronk dealt with two severe injuries in 2021 when he cracked several ribs and punctured his lung against the Rams. He subsequently missed five games and also suffered back spasms because he tried to return too early against the Saints.

Sure, the grind of the offseason and the punishment NFL players put their bodies through certainly played a part. But from this vantage point, it’s mostly because of all the serious injuries Gronk suffered throughout his career.

Either way, Sharpe’s take is disappointing. Gronkowski is not only one of the best players in the NFL, but he’s one of the best personalities, as well. He will certainly be missed and not just by Bucs and Patriots fans if he does indeed retire for good.

You can check out Sharpe’s segment, below:

Featured image via Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports