Last year, when the Cowboys reportedly were pushing for tight end Jason Witten to return, we learned that there’s an in-season drop-dead date for emerging from retirement. With retired-for-now tight end Rob Gronkowski periodically musing about a return to the Patriots during the 2019 season, we asked the league for the specific dates and deadlines applicable to a potential return to action by a player who started training camp on the reserve/retired list.
If Gronkowski had requested reinstatement before the trade deadline, the Patriots would have been required to immediately reinstate him. They could have then embraced him, traded him, or cut him.
After the trade deadline, Gronkowski can request reinstatement through the business day prior to the Patriots’ Week 13 game (at Texans). If/when he does, the Patriots have the option to activate him or to keep him on the reserve/retired list.
After the team’s Week 13 game, Gronkowski cannot request reinstatement, and thus he cannot return this year.
So the clock is ticking, and Gronkowski has fewer than five weeks to come back this season or not until 2020.
UPDATE 10:21 a.m.: The NFL previously had informed PFT that the deadline for an in-season return is tied to the team’s 13th game. The league has since corrected that information, explaining that the deadline applies to the Week 13 game. Which for the Patriots is its 12th game.