The Lions are on the brink of an 0-3 start with the Patriots coming to town for a primetime showdown. Justin Rogers and John Niyo of The Detroit News preview the game. Justin Rogers, The Detroit News
Detroit — Had he been open to the idea, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski probably would have been playing for, not against, the Detroit Lions on Sunday night.
Following the Patriots' 26-10 loss to the Lions, Gronkowski was asked about an ESPN report from earlier in the day, suggesting he had nixed a potential trade to Detroit by threatening to retire.
"Yeah, it happened," Gronkowski said.
The way the story had been originally framed is Gronkowski had specifically rejected going to Detroit, but was later clarified to indicate the star tight end has no interest in playing for any other team, or, more specifically, any other quarterback.
"(Tom) Brady’s my quarterback, that’s all," Gronkowski said. "I wasn’t going anywhere without Brady."
The Lions had a relatively quiet offseason, but a deal to land Gronkowski would have been a blockbuster. The move would have reunited the four-time All-Pro with general manager Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia, who both spent years in New England.
But, as ESPN reported, the interest was in no way mutual.
"Gronkowski even declined to return the Lions' calls..." ESPN reports.
It's unclear exactly when the talks took place or what the return compensation would have been. In March, the Lions overhauled their tight end position, cutting former first-round pick Eric Ebron. That move freed up more than $8 million in cap space. The team then signed Luke Willson and Levine Toilolo to one-year deals.
In 2012, Gronkowski agreed to a six-year, $54 million extension with the Patriots, locking him up through the 2019 season. This offseason, the team reworked the deal, adding $4.3 million in potential bonuses for 2018.
Over nine seasons, Gronkowski has caught 488 passes for 7,368 yards and 77 touchdowns. He has 13 receptions for 189 yards and a score this season.
Detroit's group of four tight ends have caught six passes for 52 yards and a touchdown. Luke Willson leads the group with three receptions. No one else has more than one.