Tampa Bay Buccaneers star Rob Gronkowski expects to hit the ground running after his year out from the NFL.
Gronkowski came out of retirement to join former New England Patriots team-mate Tom Brady at the Buccaneers.
The 31-year-old tight end quit after winning the Super Bowl for a third time with the Patriots in 2018, but Gronkowski finds himself back in the league via Tampa Bay.
As he prepares for his comeback this month, five-time Pro Bowler Gronkowski told reporters on Tuesday: “It’s going to probably be different, obviously, because there’s going to be no fans and it’s going to be my first game ever coming out of a year of not playing.
“But, I’ve been playing for nine years. I played in the NFL for nine years – it’s just like practice. It just came back like that. I’m hoping that’s how it is for the game.
“I’m going to prepare to the best that I can and hopefully right when I get out there it’s just like any other game. Game on, baby – from the first play on.”
The Buccaneers open their season against the New Orleans Saints on September 13.
Gronkowski added: “What I want to accomplish until the game is gaining the trust of my team-mates, gaining the respect of my team-mates, so when I go out there on the field, the guy next to me trusts me and I can go out there on the field and trust the guy next to me, too.
“That’s what it’s all about in practice – gaining the trust of each other so when you go out there, you can perform as a team, perform as a player and do what I need to do.
“Go out there and do my job at a fast pace without thinking and just play the game of football without thinking about it. That’s what it’s all about – that’s what you need to accomplish in practice.”
“That first snap is not going to be for, what, another 12 days, is it?” he said. “So [I’m] just preparing to the best that I can so when that first snap does hit I’m ready to go. I’m prepared, I’m not thinking.
“Hopefully it’s just filled with joy, man. That’s what I’m going for. Just go out there and be filled with joy and just be filled with adrenaline. That’s all you can ask for. Joy and adrenaline – that’s a great combo right there.”