BOSTON (CBS) – Rob Gronkowski returned to practice two weeks ago, and with that came plenty of speculation.
Is he ready to play? When will he be ready to play? Will he play before the playoffs?
Gronkowski spoke to reporters this week — a sure sign that he is improving, otherwise the muzzle would have been on — and told us he is doing everything he can to get back to game action. He’s listening to the doctors and the trainers, and says he’s getting stronger each day on the field.
But Bill Belichick has maintained all week that Gronkowski’s status is now a “medical decision,” and that likely won’t be made until Sunday afternoon.
“We’ll see how he is,” Belichick said earlier in the week. “He did more last week than the week before.. We’ll take it day-to-day, make decisions day-to-day based on where he’s at. He’s moving along, he’s not ready yet. We’ll take it day-to-day and see how it goes.”
So once the “is he ready” question gets answered, another will arise. Should he play in Sunday’s season finale even if he is healthy?
That’s a tough one for the Pats. Sunday would be the sixth straight game he would miss since breaking his forearm November 18 against the Colts, and even with Gronk you should expect a little bit of rust after that much non-game activity. It’d be better to knock that rust off against the Dolphins in the regular season than against whoever the Patriots face in the playoffs.
But at the same time, why run the risk of further — or another — injury? The Patriots learned their lesson earlier this year by bringing tight end Aaron Hernandez back too soon, and although Hernandez probably misses Gronkowski the most, he likely wouldn’t mind not having him out there on Sunday if it meant he’d be by his side come the playoffs.
The Patriots could be playing for home-field and a bye Sunday afternoon, depending on how the Texans-Colts game at 1pm plays out. Should they have a shot at that bye, it may be worth it to play Gronk, even for just a few snaps. If the bye is gone (because let’s face it, the Chiefs are not beating the Broncos while the Pats take on Miami), then keep Gronk grounded and save him for the following week’s matchup.
It’s a big decision for the Patriots, one we won’t know the answer to until Sunday afternoon.
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Tune in to Patriots-Dolphins Sunday afternoon at 4:25pm on 98.5 The Sports Hub and WBZ-TV. Pregame coverage begins on the Hub at 1pm with Patriots Preview, with three hours of post game coverage following the game. WBZ-TV’s coverage kicks off at 11:30am with Patriots GameDay, with Patriots 5th Quarter after the game on myTV38.