Gronkowski’s retirement a smart decision if it stays that way

It was a dark, cold late January morning in 2012, yet plenty of travelers were wide awake at Manchester Airport.

Your bleary-eyed humble scribe was getting ready to go through security en route to catch a flight to Indianapolis for the Super Bowl but unlike everyone else, still only half awake.

The TSA agent looked up after checking my ID and had a question.

Uh-oh. What’s going to be the issue, was the feeling. Too early for this.

“Hey, is Gronk going to play?” he asked.

You see, now retired New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was a lovable, popular figure from the start, always the center of attention. Unfortunately, the question of “Will Gronk play?” was something asked throughout his injury-plagued career. He had suffered an ankle injury in the AFC Championship Game that year, did play in the Super Bowl loss to the Giants and despite five catches for 87 yards was basically used as a decoy.

With Sunday night’s announcement, the Patriots’ March Madness continues. From the embarrassing Robert Kraft solicitation situation, to the lack of significant free agent additions, to loss of arguably the best tight end ever, the Patriots’ off-season hasn’t been the greatest thus far.

But it’s early. The Patriots needed an answer from Gronkowski, and according to NBC’s Peter King, Bill Belichick contacted Drew Rosenhaus on Thursday to give the Gronk camp a friendly nudge about the future. Rosenhaus then told Gronkowski it was time to decide, and he did.

This is what happens with dynasties. One by one, the centerpieces fade from view. Get used to it. Whomever the Patriots draft in April – if they do draft a tight end – will likely be catching passes from someone not named Brady through most of his career. It will be an interesting April, as the Patriots, armed with as many as 12 picks in the draft, certainly will be wheeling and dealing. They also save about $9 million on the cap with Gronkowski’s retirement once it becomes official with the league.

Of course, all the speculation began Monday whether the big lug would, as some are saying/hoping, eventually return. Players really miss the locker room, the competitive atmosphere, etc. when they step away.

But they don’t miss the pounding, the coaches on their case, training camp, and the injuries.

Gronkowski made the right decision here. If he ever decides to reverse his retirment, he’ll be making the wrong one. We urged him in this space just over a month ago to step away for good; too many injuries,too many surgeries, and the concussion scare most of all remain great, not just good, reasons to retire.

Of course, the Legend of Gronk will live on. He will not be out of the public eye, will be taking part in all sorts of shows and events. It’s in his DNA; he loves the spotlight.

One gambling site had odds for all sorts of possibilites for his new ventures. Returning, by the way, was at 10-1. Fight in the WWE was the favorite, 3-2. Male Stripper, to give you all a chuckle, was 50-1, the same odds for playing in the CFL.

It’ll be fun to see Gronk in retirement. But right now all the tributes are pouring in, beginning Sunday night. It didn’t take long.

“You always had a chance to win with Rob on the field,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said in a statement Monday. “He had that kind of impact on the game.”

He sure did. The official NFL year began a couple of weeks ago, and now we will know it as Year One AG – After Gronk.

Good move, Rob Gronkowski. Make sure, for your health’s sake, you stick to it.

Tom King may be reached at 594-1251,