Gronk likely out vs. Ti­tans

Pats hope rest now helps later

Boston Herald - - SPORTS - By KEVIN DUFFY Twit­ter: @Kev­inRDuffy

FOXBORO — The Pa­tri­ots ap­pear to be tak­ing the long view with Rob Gronkowski.

Poised for an­other deep play­off run, the Pats know their chances in Jan­uary are best when their gamechang­ing tight end is at full strength. Or at least close to it.

Listed as ques­tion­able with back and an­kle in­juries, Gronkowski would not com­mit to play­ing to­mor­row in Ten­nessee, call­ing it a “coach’s de­ci­sion.”

How­ever, a source in­di­cated that Gronkowski is not ex­pected to suit up against the Ti­tans. The Pats seem to be hop­ing that some rest in Novem­ber will al­low Gronkowski to re­cap­ture his top form down the stretch.

And speak­ing at his locker yes­ter­day, Gronkowski made it clear that he badly wants to re­turn to his usual dom­i­nance.

Per­haps some time off will help. “It’s been more chal­leng­ing, just with the ob­sta­cles in the way,” Gronkowski said of his 2018 sea­son. “But it’s life. You’ve got to take them on, and that’s what I’m do­ing. Just got to get back to where I need to be and just be my­self when I get back. It’ll all be good.”

With Gronkowski un­likely to play in Week 10 and the team on a Week 11 bye, he’ll have 27 days off be­fore po­ten­tially re­turn­ing to ac­tion in Week 12 at the Jets.

Gronkowski did not play in Week 7 at the Bears or Week 9 ver­sus the Pack­ers.

“Just work­ing hard right now,” he said. “That’s the track I’m look­ing at. I just see pos­i­tiv­ity. I see it go­ing strong in the fu­ture.”

Just be­yond the mid­way point of the sea­son, the New Eng­land of­fense is pick­ing up steam, av­er­ag­ing 35.5 points over the past six games. And they’ve done it with­out sig­nif­i­cant sta­tis­ti­cal con­tri­bu­tions from Gronkowski, who has to­taled 259 re­ceiv­ing yards dur­ing the team’s win­ning streak.

Gronkowski first ap­peared on the in­jury re­port with an an­kle in­jury in Week 3. He dealt with a back is­sue be­gin­ning in Week 7, and re­mains listed on the re­port with both in­juries.

Asked how much fun he’s hav­ing this sea­son, Gronkowski sim­ply said, “Just work­ing hard. Some­times you’ve got to just put the work in and do what you’ve got to do.”

Gronkowski hasn’t scored a touch­down since Week 1. He’s been tar­geted only twice in the red zone all year. He’s in a slump sta­tis­ti­cally, but has still been an im­por­tant part of the New Eng­land of­fense. He ex­celled as a run blocker against the Chiefs, paving the way for Sony Michel on sev­eral long runs. In the same game, Gronkowski caught fourth-quar­ter passes of 42 and 39 yards. The lat­ter set up the game-win­ning field goal.

Gronkowski’s av­er­age of 64 re­ceiv­ing yards per game is 13 fewer than his mark from the 2017 sea­son. It’s his low­est fig­ure since his rookie sea­son.

To date, Gronkowski ranks fourth among NFL tight ends in re­ceiv­ing yards per game, trail­ing Kansas City’s Travis Kelce, Philadel­phia’s Zach Ertz and San Fran­cisco’s Ge­orge Kit­tle.

It’s an un­fa­mil­iar spot for Gronkowski, who has been the league’s most dom­i­nant tight end through­out the ma­jor­ity of his ca­reer.

“The most im­por­tant thing is to be con­tribut­ing to the team and be­ing out there with the boys,” Gronkowski said. “It’s just go­ing to be work­ing hard ev­ery sin­gle day. Ex­tra days, ex­tra work, and do­ing the best that I can. Ev­ery­thing is go­ing smooth, and we’ll see what hap­pens from here.”

Gronkowski later added, “I can’t wait when I am back, when­ever it is, to be back out there and give it my all, to my team­mates and the coaches, to give it all I have. They’ve been great and it’s al­ways great work­ing with them.”

NANCY LANE / BOS­TON HER­ALD

SPRING IN HIS STEP: Rob Gronkowski loosens up dur­ing prac­tice this week at Gil­lette Sta­dium, but the Pa­tri­ots tight end re­mains ques­tion­able for to­mor­row’s game against Ten­nessee.

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