BOSTON (CBS) — Rob Gronkowski still has not been healthy enough to get onto the practice field, so it was widely assumed that the tight end would not be ready to begin the season. Now, it’s more or less confirmed.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Monday that Gronkowski’s chances of being ready to play in the season opener are “not realistic” as he recovers from his most recent back surgery.

Gronkowski, 24, has been lifting weights and exercising in Foxboro while his teammates have practiced in training camp and have played two preseason games already. With the season opener less than three weeks ago, time was running out for Gronkowski to get on the field in time to be ready for Week 1 in his hometown of Buffalo.

With Gronkowski most likely unable to play, the Patriots will have to decide whether they keep him on the physically unable to perform list, where he would be required to remain for six weeks while not taking up a roster spot, or place him on the active roster, thereby allowing him to return earlier but forcing the team to operate without the additional roster spot for another player. The Patriots’ first six opponents are the Bills, Jets, Buccaneers, Falcons, Bengals and Saints.

With Gronkowski recovering and Aaron Hernandez in prison and released from the team, the tight end pool looks a bit different for Tom Brady this season. Michael Hoomanawanui and Daniel Fells return from last season, with undrafted rookie Zach Sudfeld turning heads with his impressive pass-catching ability and Jake Ballard joining the team as well.

Last year, Gronkowski missed five weeks in the regular season, with the team going 4-1 in that period, before missing the team’s playoff loss to the Ravens. He left the team’s playoff win over the Texans early when he re-injured his arm.

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