Bill Belichick praises Rob Gronkowski: He 'was a major reason why we won games and championships'

Bill Belichick graciously thanked Rob Gronkowski after the Patriots star announced his retirement Sunday.

Gronkowski, 29, posted the news on Instagram, saying he was stepping away from the NFL after nine seasons in New England.

“It’s time to move forward and move forward with a big smile on my face knowing that the New England Patriots organization, Pats nation and all my fans will truly be a big part of my heart for the rest of my life,” Gronkowski’s message read in part. “It was truly an incredible honor to play for such a great, established organization.”

Belichick released a statement praising Gronkowski later in the day.

“It was a pleasure and a privilege to coach Rob Gronkowski the past nine years,” a statement released by Belichick read. “From his rookie year until his final season and through countless times in between, Rob was a major reason why we won games and championships. His elite combination of size, skill, intelligence, toughness and ability to perform in pressure situations set him apart.

“Rob’s impact on our team and organization was felt in many ways. In the ultimate team sport, Rob was a great, great teammate. His production spoke for itself, but his daily attitude, unmistakably positive energy wherever he went and toward whoever he touched will never be forgotten.”

Owner Robert Kraft also released a statement Sunday.

“In the nine years that I have known Rob Gronkowski, I have never known him to have a bad day,” the statement read. “He always has a youthful exuberance about him and is a joy to be around. As a player, he earned the respect of his coaches and teammates for his hard work, preparation, selfless attitude and the sheer dominance of his game. ‘Gronk’ quickly became a fan favorite and the most dominant player at his position for nearly a decade. I look forward to honoring him in the near future as both a Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Famer.​”

Gronkowski, who struggled with injuries throughout his career, won three Super Bowls and made five Pro Bowls during his time with the Patriots.

Gronkowski finishes his career with 521 regular-season catches for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns. He retires as the Patriots’ career leader in touchdowns and is tied for the second-most receiving scores in playoff history.