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Gronkowski says Bucs' offense might be best he's played with yet

Rob Gronkowski has been a part of some of the NFL's best offenses with Tom Brady at the helm.

Unlike the past few seasons, the units in New England weren't all devoid of talented playmakers. At times, the Patriots boasted plenty of weapons for former quarterback Brady.

Gronkowski certainly enjoyed the few years he had with Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Kevin Faulk, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Aaron Hernandez making life miserable for opposing defenses.

He also was part of a group with Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell, Shane Vereen and LeGarrette Blount that won a Super Bowl against the Seahawks, and later, Edelman, Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Hogan, Martellus Bennett, James White and Dion Lewis. That crew was part of the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history against the Falcons.

But the group Brady now has in Tampa, with receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown, tight ends Gronkowski and Cameron Brate, and running backs Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones, just might be the best of the lot, according to Gronk.

"Yeah, I would say it definitely ranks up there if it's not No. 1," Gronkowski said on a video call Thursday. "I've been around a lot of great, talented players, but I would say overall — as a group, from position to position (with) how many guys we have at each position — I would say this definitely ranks up there, if it's not No. 1 for talent-wise as a whole. Yeah, definitely."

Gronkowski hasn't been as much of an integral part of the offense, but his contributions have still been important. He came out of retirement in order to re-join Brady, and said the decision has pretty much lived up to expectations.

He's now 10-for-10 with getting to the postseason riding shotgun with Brady, and has an NFC Championship game on tap with the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

"It has matched a lot of hopes that I had coming here big time. It's just so hard to win football games in the NFL. Week in and week out, it's just hard to win games. The main goal, obviously, is always to make it to the Super Bowl, but it's hard. It's one of the hardest things to do out there in the sports world," said Gronk. "My expectations coming in were just to work hard week in and week out and just give the best I could every single week, no matter what I had ... Obviously you want to win games and the main goal is to win it all, but to just be where we are now is just unbelievable."

It took some time for Gronk to get in gear after spending a year away from the game. He finished the season with 45 catches for 623 yards and seven touchdowns, and didn't miss a regular-season start for the first time since 2011.

Brady and Gronkowski remain one touchdown shy of setting the outright all-time playoff record for most passing TDs by a QB-pass catcher duo. Currently, they sit tied with Joe Montana and Jerry Rice with 12 postseason touchdowns.

Gronk caught just one pass last week against the Saints. In both postseason matchups thus far with Washington and New Orleans, Gronkowski's blocking prowess has been utilized more, and has been a benefit.

"Rob has been killing it in the run game, which is huge for having a balanced offense and being able to do different things in the offense," Bucs center Ryan Jensen said. "He's out there run-blocking like a maniac. And that's awesome to see."

Gronkowski would love to be catching more passes, but he's willing to do whatever it takes to win games. He also understands if his blocking keeps Brady safe and gives him a clean pocket, that goes a long way toward winning.

"I feel like it gives him the best opportunity to make the best decision on where the ball should go, on who should get the ball, on where the pass should be, on what coverage to read and all of that," said Gronk. "It's huge to keep him clean (and) it's huge to give him time."

Between all the talent he's been playing with, and all the fun he's having, Gronkowski also reiterated during his video session his desire to return next season with Tampa.

The Buccaneers, who sent a fourth-round pick to New England, absorbed the one year he had left on his Patriots' deal before sitting out one year. And given how well it's gone, Gronkowski, who is 31, would love to continue on.

"I don't see why not," said Gronk. "Obviously, there's logistical things. I'm just on a one-year deal. And my main focus is obviously the season, and going to Green Bay. But if I had that question now, I don't see why I wouldn't be coming back for the 2021 season."

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