BOSTON (CBS) – One could argue that if tight end Rob Gronkowski had been healthy the past three seasons then the Patriots might have one or two more Lombardi trophies to put on their shelf — the key word being “if.”

The former Arizona product is entering his fifth season in the league, the previous two unable to finish a full slate of 16 regular season games. In 2011 during the Patriots Super Bowl run, the Giants soon found out that Gronk was nothing more than a decoy after an ankle injury two weeks prior against Baltimore hobbled his ability to be effective in the big game.

By all indications — signing Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, drafting a pass rusher in the first round, etc — the Patriots are “loading up” for a Super Bowl in 2014, and the likelihood of them doing so hinges on the health of Gronkowski. He is that important to their success.

The All Pro injured his right knee on December 8, 2013 in a game against the Browns and had surgery for his torn ACL shortly thereafter. According to reports, Gronkowski is doing well in his rehab and is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season.

Listeners of 98.5 The Sports Hub frequently call in and say something to the effect of, “Don’t rush Rob Gronkowski back. Let him heal fully, and then some, before bringing him back,” or even more extreme, “Bring him back after the bye week! We need him healthy for the postseason!”

All strong takes, but Bob Socci doesn’t understand that position. He explained why Wednesday afternoon with Marc Bertrand, filling in for Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti.

“I believe there is a strong possibility that [Gronkowski] will be back for Week 1, and my feeling is that if he is capable of being back Week 1 then he should be on the field in Week 1,” said Socci.

“I think you should try and wait until any player is one-hundred percent, but the question with him has been, ‘Well are you better having him for the last part of the season and giving yourself the best opportunity to have him on the field in the postseason?’ My point of view in terms of Gronk, and I don’t know where he is relative to where he should be, but I feel that if he is one-hundred percent then he should be on the field in Week 1.

“As we learned last year, there is a thin difference — a tissue thin difference — between a no. 1 seed and a no. 2 seed. The Patriots lost four games last year during the regular campaign, two of those featured Gronkowski and two of them did not. With Gronkowski on the field against Cincinnati, and with Gronkowski on the field against Miami maybe that’s the difference [between the no. 1 and 2 seed]. And I believe that is the difference between playing that AFC Championship in Foxboro as opposed to Denver.

“When you try to manipulate fate in a sense when it comes to injuries, then you’re kind of putting yourself in peril.”

Listen below for the full discussion:



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