Patriots star Rob Gronkowski retires from NFL after nine seasons

24 March 2019, 22:09 | Updated: 24 March 2019, 23:12

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has announced his retirement after nine NFL seasons.

Gronkowski, who will turn 30 in May, retires after winning three Super Bowl titles with the Patriots, the most recent of which came against the Los Angeles Rams last month.

He is widely considered to be among the greatest tight ends in NFL history.

A four-time First Team All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection, Gronkowski caught 521 passes for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns in 115 games from 2010-18. He added 81 catches for 1,163 yards and 12 touchdowns in 16 postseason contests.

But he has been dogged in recent seasons by back, knee, ankle and arm injuries that have limited his ability to stay on the field.

In a lengthy post on Instagram, Gronkowski said: "It all started at 20 years old on stage at the NFL draft when my dream came true, and now here I am about to turn 30 in a few months with a decision I feel is the biggest of my life so far. I will be retiring from the game of football today.

"I am so grateful for the opportunity that Mr. Kraft and Coach Belichick gave to me when drafting my silliness in 2010.

"My life experiences over the last nine years have been amazing both on and off the field. The people I have met, the relationships I have built, the championships I have been a part of, I just want to thank the whole New England Patriots organization for every opportunity I have been giving and learning the great values of life that I can apply to mine.

"Thank you to all of Pats Nation around the world for the incredible support since I have been a part of this first-class organization.

"Thank you for everyone accepting who I am and the dedication I have put into my work to be the best player I could be.

"But now it is time to move forward and move forward with a big smile knowing that the New England Patriots Organization, Pats Nation, and all my fans will be truly a big part of my heart for rest of my life.

"It was truly an incredible honour to play for such a great established organization and able to come in to continue and contribute to keep building success.

"To all my current and past teammates, thank you for making each team every year special to be a part of. I will truly miss you guys.

"Cheers to all who have been part of this journey, cheers to the past for the incredible memories, and a HUGE cheers to the uncertain of what is next."

NFL players - led by quarterback Tom Brady - were quick to take to social media to wish Gronkowski well in retirement.