TAMPA — Retired tight end Rob Gronkowski reached out to the Bucs last month about a possible return to the team, saying he was "bored" not playing football.
The Bucs had several conversations with Gronkowski around Thanksgiving about possibly reuniting with quarterback Tom Brady to help the struggling squad secure a playoff berth.
Gronkowski told the Bucs he was working. He and the club discussed a number of options, including signing the 33-year-old to the practice squad to give him a few weeks to get back into football shape, although they were keen to add him to the active list.
It was more of a conversation than anything else," Bucs coach Todd Bowles said. "Usually, when you have to think about the game, you probably don't want to play. When it's just a discussion, I didn't think much of it.
The Bucs are 6-8 but still hold a one-game lead in the NFC South heading into Sunday night's game in Arizona.
Gronkowski first retired with the Patriots after the 2018 season. He agreed to rejoin Brady in Tampa Bay in 2020 and the Bucs traded for his rights from New England.
Gronkowski played in 16 regular-season games in 2020, catching 45 passes for 623 yards and seven touchdowns during the regular season.
In four postseason games, Gronkowski had eight catches for 110 yards. That included six receptions on seven targets for 67 yards and two touchdowns in a Super Bowl 55 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
But last season, Gronkowski suffered broken ribs and a partially punctured lung in a Week 3 loss to the Rams and missed four games.
Nevertheless, he was a factor down the stretch and produced better numbers with 55 receptions for 802 yards and six touchdowns.