With only three games remaining in the 2019 NFL regular season, it’s long become clear that Rob Gronkowski isn’t returning to play football for the New England Patriots.

Patriots fans may still hold out hope for the star tight end to come to the rescue for a team that’s lost its past two games and has been struggling on offense despite a 10-3 record. Tom Brady needs his favorite target! But after announcing his retirement in March, Gronkowski, 30, hasn’t shown any interest in returning to the game he left behind following nine seasons and a variety of injuries.

If there was any question as to whether Gronkowski might be considering a comeback, he effectively put such talk to rest with a profile on CBS Sunday Morning this past weekend. The primary focus of the feature by correspondent Reena Ninan was Gronkowski restoring his physical and mental health after getting away from football. He says he didn’t feel like himself and struggled through his last two seasons.

With the concern over brain injuries suffered by NFL players, the most troubling aspect of the interview might be when Gronkowski said that his head was noticeably more swollen seven months ago, that he could feel a build-up of liquid at the back of his head.

(Those remarks are at the 5:55 mark of the following video.)

“If you go look at a picture of me, literally from seven months ago, my head is swollen,” Gronkowski said. “Like I was feeling back here and I had, like, liquid just on my brain. You could push it in. It was like pushing a jelly donut.”

Ninan’s piece also showed what Gronk is doing these days, notably participating in fitness events with his father and brothers, along with his interest in jigsaw puzzles. (Though the report didn’t mention Gronkowski’s partnership with CBD company CBDMedic, he did wear a shirt with its logo during a sit-down interview.)

Gronkowski is also considerably slimmed down from his playing weight, something that’s been noticeable whenever he’s appeared in public since this summer. That probably should’ve shut down talk of a return to football right there.

But in his interview with Ninan, Gronkowski sounded far more concerned with feeling better mentally and physically each day, getting to a place that feels more normal. There was no talk about the Patriots, reuniting with his teammates, or going for another Super Bowl championship. (At least not on the air. Gronkowski did talk about what his former team needs during the interview.)

If Gronkowski stays involved in football, it will likely be as a studio analyst, which he tried out back in October with Fox Sports. He may also be eyeing an action movie career, making his on-screen debut in Boss Level, set to be released sometime next year.

But for a guy known publicly for his outgoing, fun-loving personality, maintaining his health and quality of life after football is something for which everyone should be rooting. Even diehard football fans acknowledge the harsh toll the sport takes on its participants. Gronkowski has had his football glory, he’s achieved the best that the NFL has to offer. He seems like a guy ready to move on and has already taken important steps toward establishing that next stage of his life.

[CBS Sunday Morning]

About Ian Casselberry

Ian is a writer, editor, and podcaster. You can find his work at Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He's written for Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation.