‘An absolute honor’: How the rest of the NFL reacted to Rob Gronkowski’s retirement

"He reminded us every time he was on the field that we're just playing a kids game."

Rob Gronkowski Super Bowl XLIX
Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement from professional football on Sunday. –Jim Davis / The Boston Globe

After Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement from the NFL on Sunday, the tributes rolled in.

Fans, Patriots teammates, and competitors took to social media to congratulate Gronk on his exceptional nine-year NFL career.

Here’s how athletes past and present from the rest of the NFL reacted to Gronkowksi’s retirement announcement:

Nate Burleson, NFL wide receiver 2003-2013

Burleson currently co-hosts Good Morning Football on NFL Network. On Monday, Burleson said he was glad to see Gronkowski retire on his own terms after a career of maneuvering within “the Patriot way” to do things “the Gronk way.”

“He reminded us every time he was on the field that we’re just playing a kids game,” Burleson said. “It’s the same game we were playing at recess. The same game we were skinning our knees for in the parking lot, in the driveway, outside, trying to be the best football players we can be.”

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Burleson also said he would “rather see him walk away from the game than limp away from the game.”

“The last few years, the first thing I said after the season is, ‘Gronk, re-evaluate what’s important,” Burleson said. “Because I don’t care about the trophies, I don’t care about the stats, I don’t care about the records, I’d rather see him happy 15 years from now, running with his family, than limping through the house because he’s so banged up.”

JJ Watt, Texans defensive end

David Njoku, Cleveland Browns tight end

Kyle Long, Bears offensive tackle

Chris Long, Eagles defensive end (and former Patriot)

The other Long publicly wondered who the youngest football player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is. Gale Sayers was inducted in 1977 at age 34.

Gronkowski turns 30 on May 14. According to the Hall, players become eligible for selection after they have been out of the NFL for five consecutive seasons. Given those rules, Gronkowski will not be eligible for induction until 2024, when he turns 35.

Le’Veon Bell, Jets running back

Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers tight end

Olsen admitted he would watch Gronkowski’s game film each week during his NFL career and attempt to emulate Gronk’s playing style.

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Michael Strahan, Giants defensive end 1993-2007

Strahan, who became a television personality after his 15-year NFL career, encouraged Gronkowski to enjoy life after football.

Pat McAfee, Colts punter 2009-2016

McAfee emphasized Gronkowski’s dynamic career on the field and hinted at the tight end’s unique spending habits. In 2015, Gronkowski wrote in his book “It’s Good to Be Gronk” that he only spends money made from endorsements and saves money made from the NFL.

Jamal Adams, Jets safety

Bruce Irvin, Panther defensive end

Irvin referenced Super Bowl XLIX, in which the Patriots defeated Irvin’s Seahawks 28-24. Patriots fans may remember Irvin and Gronkowski played notable parts in an on-field brawl as time expired and the Patriots won the franchise’s fourth Super Bowl.

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Golden Tate, Giants wide receiver

Tate’s mind was apparently blown by the notion of never seeing Gronkowski spike a football after a touchdown again.

Andrew Hawkins, NFL wide receiver 2011-2016

Everybody loves Gronk. Especially kids. Andrew Hawkins’s son apparently likes Gronk more than he likes his dad.

Donald Driver, Packers wide receiver 1999-2012

Driver, the Packers’ all-time leader in total receiving yards, called Gronk “one of the best.”

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