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Rob Gronkowski on the Lions: An Alternate Timeline

The Patriots were reportedly considering sending Gronk to Detroit this offseason before the tight end threatened retirement. What would have happened if the deal went through?

Elias Stein/Getty Images

With infinite simulations outside the one we live in, we are lucky to inhabit a world where Rob Gronkowski spends his offseason riding on Shaquille O’Neal’s shoulders during a Steve Aoki concert like a small child going up on the chair at a bar mitzvah.

Yet somewhere there is another world, almost indistinguishable from our own, where every detail is the same except for one: Gronkowski, freed from the shadowy Patriot Way, has gone Full Gronk on the entire country. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported about this alternate reality Sunday morning, noting that Gronkowski was nearly traded to the Lions in a blockbuster deal the week of April’s NFL draft. Gronkowski nixed the trade by threatening to retire. After the game, Gronkowski confirmed the story.

“Yeah, it happened.” Gronkowski said. “And [Tom] Brady is my quarterback. That’s all. Wasn’t going anywhere without Brady.”

Gronk, one of the most dominant players on the field and one of the biggest personalities off of it, has spent his entire nine-year career in New England, and watching him leave the most famously media-averse team in the league would have been fascinating. But rather than leave it to the imagination, let’s look at the alternate timeline where the Pats tight end was sent to Detroit and indulged in the Summer of Gronk.


April 23: Schefter reports that the Patriots “are exploring the possibility of trading All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski.” Gronkowski quote tweets Schefter’s report with the eyes emoji.

April 25: Schefter reports that the Patriots have traded tight end Rob Gronkowski and a second-round pick to the Detroit Lions for a first-round pick and wide receiver Golden Tate. Hours later, Gronkowski confirms the deal in a photo of an airport runway posted to his Instagram story with the following caption:

“✈️✈️✈️ ––––––>
yo whatup @blakegriffin23 wheels down in detroit!! lmk where I can celebrate tonite lol.”

April 26: With the 20th overall pick in the NFL draft, New England selects South Carolina State tight end Hayden Hurst. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay agree on giving the team an A grade. “It’s always better to trade a player a year early than a year late,” Kiper says about the trade.


May 14: Gronkowski spends his 29th birthday partying with Eminem, Kid Rock, and Stevie Wonder in downtown Detroit, according to TMZ Sports.

May 21: On the first day of organized team activities, Gronkowski says he is in “the best shape of his life.” Asked what it’s like to play with Matthew Stafford, Gronkowski says he’s “never seen anyone throw so hard” and that his hands hurt from catching Stafford’s passes.

May 22: On Skip and Shannon: Undisputed, Shannon Sharpe says Gronkowski’s quote is evidence that Brady’s arm strength is declining. Skip Bayless argues that Gronkowski is “soft.” A video of the argument is retweeted by Jimmy Garoppolo.


June 9: Gronkowski’s newly acquired thoroughbred racehorse, also named Gronkowski, wins the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes.

In a post-victory interview on NBC, an inebriated Gronkowski celebrates by lifting jockey Jose Ortiz over his head and pretending to spike him like a football. He ends the interview by saying he needs “to find Wes [Welker].”

June 18: In an article for The Players’ Tribune titled “Call me Rob,” Gronkowski admits he was “pissed” when he first heard about the trade, but saw an opportunity to personally and professionally flourish in the Motor City.

“I have all the respect in the world for Tom [Brady] and Coach [Bill Belichick],” Gronkowski writes. “But I feel like I can finally be me now. I feel like I’m Rob again.”

In the same story, Gronkowski reveals he was bitten by a shark while filming a segment for Shark Week in the Bahamas in April.

“It wasn’t a big deal,” Gronkowski wrote of the shark bite. “It was one of those little ones, like a foot long. Nipped me. I’ve had worse happen to me in the preseason.”


July 8: ESPN’s Darren Rovell reports that Ford will feature Gronkowski in a new line of F-150 commercials alongside Denis Leary after Gronkowski’s local commercials in New England were a hit. The campaign, focused on the F-150’s revamped lift kit, will be titled “Look Back at It.”

July 22: On an episode of The Joe Rogan Experience, Gronkowski said the most surprising thing he has learned about competitive horse racing is how much horse semen sells for.

“There’s a company in Kentucky offering us $5 million for exclusive breeding rights,” Gronkowski said. “Five million bucks just to let this horse get freaky all day. Can you believe that?”


August 1: During a Lions training camp practice, Martha Firestone Ford, the 92-year-old controlling owner of the team, gives Gronkowski a disapproving look while he twerks to “I Like It” by Cardi B, and a photograph capturing the moment is shared widely as a meme on social media.

August 4: Gronkowski compares the receiving combination of him, Marvin Jones Jr., and Kenny Golladay to a three-headed monster “like that dog in the Harry Potter movie, except a lion.”

August 7: After the Lions travel to California for joint practices with the Raiders, Gronkowski tells Oakland reporters, “I thought ‘joint practice’ meant something else.”

August 15: In an interview with GQ, Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey says that Gronkowski “is nothing, literally nobody” without Brady. “He’d be an extra on Blue Mountain State if it weren’t for Brady.”

August 30: On the season finale of Hard Knocks featuring a preseason game between the Browns and Lions, Gronkowski tells Baker Mayfield the next time he comes to Detroit they’ll “have a night” and asks whether there are any spare beds in Mayfield’s RV.


September 10: On the season opener of Monday Night Football, the Lions win a Week 1 offensive bonanza against the Jets, led by Gronkowski’s nine-catch, 158-yard, three-touchdown debut. After the game, Gronkowski creds Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, who Gronkowski refers to as “Cooties,” for a successful game plan.

September 14: Gronkowski makes a cameo in Eminem’s music video “Killshot.” The video becomes the most viewed rap song in a 24-hour span in YouTube history. Asked whether the video is a distraction, head coach Matt Patricia says he doesn’t know who Machine Gun Kelly is and that he’s focused on the coming game against San Francisco 49ers.

September 16: Gronkowski suffers a hamstring injury in a close loss to San Francisco. His status against the Patriots in Week 3 is uncertain.

September 23: In the revenge matchup for Gronkowski and head coach Matt Patricia, the Lions defeat a flat Patriots squad, 26-10. Gronkowski finishes with a modest four catches for 51 yards, but his stat line is overshadowed by a play in the third quarter, when he bowled over Belichick while blocking linebacker Dont’a Hightower along the sideline.

After the game, Gronkowski characterized the play as a fluke and said his momentum carried him into the sideline but that he was sorry if anyone was hurt. Belichick brushes off the play and said the Patriots won’t ask the league to investigate.

“We’re focused on the Miami Dolphins,” Belichick says after walking to the podium with a noticeable limp.

After the game, Gronkowski is asked about a Schefter report that Gronkowski tried to nix the trade to Detroit by threatening to retire, but that the Patriots called his bluff.

”Yeah, it happened,” Gronkowski says. “But Matthew’s my quarterback, that’s all. Not going anywhere without him.”


February 3, 2019: The Patriots defeat the Rams 38-28 to win Super Bowl LIII. Tight end Dwayne Allen, who caught 14 passes for 165 receiving yards, is named Super Bowl MVP.