Bucs GM Licht on Gronk: ‘It is always difficult to see a great player walk away from the game’

After 11 seasons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski has decided to call it quits. Gronkowski announced his retirement from the NFL via Instagram on Tuesday.

The 33-year-old spent the last two seasons with the Buccaneers after spending the first nine seasons with the Patriots. After retiring in 2019, Gronkowski returned in 2020 and followed Tom Brady to Tampa Bay, where the two won their fourth Super Bowl together. 

Gronkowski ended his career with 621 receptions, 9286 yards, and 92 touchdown catches. His receiving touchdowns total is tied for the third-most by a tight end in NFL history, trailing only Antonio Gates (116) and Pro Football Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez (111)

The five-time Pro Bowler was honored as one of five tight ends selected to the NFL 100 All-Time Team and one of two chosen for the NFL and Pro Football Hall of Fame All-Decade Team for the 2010s.

Here is a statement from Buccaneers GM Jason Licht on the retirement of Gronkowski:

“Rob is a true professional who left it all on the field for us the past two seasons and helped establish a championship culture in our building. He played a crucial part in our Super Bowl LV championship season in 2020 and battled through a number of injuries last year while on the way to one of the most productive receiving yardage seasons in his 11-year career. It is always difficult to see a great player walk away from the game when he is still enjoying that kind of success, but the overwhelming emotions I feel today are gratitude and respect for one of the greatest tight ends who ever played the game. While his on-field accomplishments will surely earn him a gold jacket and a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it is his humble attitude and team-first approach to the game that truly defined his career.”

Bucs’ Arians on Brady: ‘He is still playing at a championship level’

Tom Brady is back!! The seven-time Super Bowl winner announced his return to the game via Twitter Sunday night.

In February, the 44-year-old Brady officially announced his retirement, a few weeks after the Buccaneers lost to the Rams in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

In 2020, Brady led the Buccaneers to the franchise’s second Super Bowl title.

After the announcement of his return to football, Buccaneers GM Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians reacted:

Statement from Licht:

“We are thrilled that Tom has decided to come back this season. We said we would leave all options open for him should he reconsider his retirement and today’s announcement is something we have been preparing for in recent days. Bruce and I have had plenty of conversations with Tom recently that led us to believe there was a realistic chance he would want to come back. Tom is the greatest quarterback of all time who is still playing at an elite level. With this decision now made, we will continue to move forward with our offseason plans to reload this roster for another championship run.”

Statement from Arians:

“Tom Brady loves to play football as much as anyone I have ever been around. As Tom said, his place right now is on the football field. He is still playing at a championship level and was as productive as anyone in the league last season. We are ecstatic that he decided to continue playing and working toward winning another championship.”

Bucs GM Licht on loss to Bears: ‘We’ve had a lot of bad losses – that one was one that really stung the most’

The 2020 season was not all smooth sailing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They were swept by the New Orleans Saints, and they lost three out of four games in November to fall to 7-5.

While November was bad for the Buccaneers, a loss in October on the road to the Chicago Bears was the worst of the season, according to GM Jason Licht. 

Tampa Bay fell to the Bears 20-19 in that contest after leading 10-0 in the first quarter.

“That game was a game that, probably in my career here – and we’ve had a lot of bad losses – that one was one that really stung the most, I think,” Licht said on Tuesday. “Not only did we lose the way we lost with the penalties and things like that, we also lost Vita [Vea]. I was talking about this the other day with Bruce [Arians], actually. I said, ‘Gosh, that game still stings.’ He said, ‘That’s the best thing that happened to us. That game is the best thing that happened to us, looking back in retrospect.’ I think he’s right.

“We cleaned up our penalties, we were more disciplined, and it just brought everybody together. It showed that we’re all human – everybody – and everybody needs to be held accountable. Everybody on the roster, everybody in the front office, and everybody in the organization. It brought us closer together.”

After that loss to Chicago, the Buccaneers won three straight games.

At this point, Tampa Bay has clearly turned it around, and now, after winning three games in the playoffs, all on the road, Tampa Bay is 60 minutes away from being world champions.

Bucs GM Licht is right, Winston not a bust

For five seasons, free agent QB Jameis Winston had many ups and downs for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At times, he was spectacular, and at other times, he was a train wreck. Obviously, when the Buccaneers drafted Winston with the number one overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, they expected a guy who won a national championship in college, to lead the franchise to big things. Unfortunately, that never happened.

Winston was 28-42 as a starter with the Buccaneers and could not lead the team to the playoffs. It was mixed bag for Winston, and nothing epitomized that more than what happened with him in 2019, where Winston threw for 5,109 yards and 33 touchdowns, which was canceled out by his 30 interceptions.

Fortunately for Tampa Bay, Winston is gone, and arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time, Tom Brady has arrived.

While things did not work out the way Tampa Bay wanted it to with Winston, according to Buccaneers GM Jason Licht, Winston is not a bust and still has a bright future. 

“We have a lot of respect for Jameis,” Licht said during a video call today. “Jameis was still part of our plan if things went a different route. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. I thought he did a lot of great things and I think anybody in our office, or our building, would say the same thing. He did some spectacular things for us. I would never say that personally – and I think I speak on behalf of the organization – that he was a bust.

“I think he’s got a bright future ahead of him. It just really comes down to, we had a chance to get Tom Brady. Tom Brady is a hell of a player and we are very excited about that. I’m very confident that Jameis is going to go on and get an opportunity. That’s not the last you’re going to hear from Jameis.”

The 26-year-old Winston still does have a bright future, and he young enough where he could still have success with another team. At this point, it seems that Winston may have to be a backup in 2020, which might not be a bad thing. It could be an opportunity for him to take a step back, and if all goes well, he could go try to find a starting position in 2021. 

Winston is not a bust, but the Buccaneers would love to have had more success during his time in Tampa Bay.