The term “retirement papers” (possibly as a figure of speech) emerged last night in connection with Rob Gronkowski. And it’s true that he hasn’t put in his “retirement papers.”
It’s also true, as a league source with knowledge of the situation explained it to PFT, that the league no longer utilizes “retirement papers.”
Previously, a player filed retirement papers in order to initiate his pension. Barry Sanders, for example, didn’t file his retirement papers for years, but he was clearly retired. Currently, the player’s pension rights are activated once a full year has elapsed since his last NFL employment.
The fact remains that retirement isn’t irrevocable, even if “retirement papers” have been filed. It’s very easy to secure removal from the reserve/retired list, which is the place where a retired player’s rights are held.
For Gronk, who was placed on the reserve/retired list before the opening of training camp, he needs to simply inform the Commissioner of the desire to return before the Tuesday after Week 13. The Patriots then will have to decide whether to add him to the roster or release his rights.
Earlier this week, coach Bill Belichick didn’t have a roster spot for tight end Ben Watson after the conclusion of his four-game PED suspension. If/when Gronk unretires, Belichick surely will find a spot for him.