Gronk likely out vs. Titans
Pats hope rest now helps later
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.”
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.