We haven’t heard much news lately on Rob Gronkowskiand his progression from arm and back surgeries, because the New England Patriots have unsurprisingly given us no hints at Gronk’s status (note: teams are not required to give injury updates until the days leading up to the first week of the regular season). Gronkowski still hasn’t dressed out, though, and it seems likely that the Patriots will place him on the reserve/PUP list to start the season. That would cause Gronkowski to miss the first six games of the regular season, but it would also be best for his health and allow him to be preserved for when the team needs him most.
ESPN’s Ed Werder said on the NFL Insiders show that Gronk “still seems to be a ways away yet”, and this seems to point towards Gronkowski being placed on the PUP as the most likely scenario. Werder stated that Gronk is still doing strength and conditioning, and it will be interesting to see how quickly he passes through the rehab process. At this point in time, we shouldn’t expect to see Gronk back in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills.
In the meantime, the Patriots need to have a starting tight end in place if Gronk misses time, and I remember it wasn’t too long ago when it looked like Jake Ballard was unquestionably the pick. But with Ballard slow to heal from microfracture surgery, it doesn’t even seem like he’s a lock to make the roster. This is an open and fluid competition that is arguably the most interesting on the roster, with Zach Sudfeld, Daniel Fells, and Michael Hoomanawanui also fighting for the gig. Different people will give you someone different as their projected starter, too, and I could see a guy like Fells getting cut if Gronk can start the season (then, we’ll have a different competition at tight end).
Sudfeld is the fastest of the tight ends, and he’s the best pass-catcher of them for my money. The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin shared an interesting nugget on Sudfeld, “Not only does Sudfeld continue to take a ton of reps with the first-team offense, he was also split out wide at wide receiver for a handful of snaps.”
Splitting out wide? Color me intrigued. Put it on the board: Sudfeld will start for the New England Patriots if Rob Gronkowski is out.