New England Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski has been quietly on our minds through training camp, because we just don’t know whether or not he will be starting the season on the reserve/PUP list (he is currently on the active/PUP, while the reserve/PUP causes a player to be out for a team’s first six games) or on the 53-man roster. That impacts how the rest of the pieces at tight end fall into place, because a healthy Gronk means that Daniel Fells is most likely going to get cut. If Gronkowski starts the season on the PUP, then Fells stays and Zach Sudfeld most likely becomes the starter.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter on the NFL Insiders show, it’s “not realistic” for Rob Gronkowski to play in the New England Patriots Week 1 game against the AFC East rival Buffalo Bills. Most reports to this point have indicated that Gronkowski will likely start the season on the PUP list (he is still rehabbing), but this is the first report that puts a clear damper on his ability to play in Week 1.
Schefter then tweeted out, “One of biggest roster decisions NE will have to make is whether to carry Rob Gronkowski on 53-man roster or place him on PUP.”
Rob Gronkowski could still start the season on the Patriots 53-man roster, but it really sounds like he isn’t going to be playing in Week 1. Schefter’s report casts further doubt on Gronk’s ability to start the season against the Bills, and it seems like the most prudent move for the Patriots is to place Gronkowski on the PUP. This team is still four-deep at TE without Gronk, and the emergence of Zach Sudfeld as a potentially big pass-catching threat puts a damper on the need to possibly rush back Gronk. Every game counts, but having Gronk healthy towards the end of the season and the postseason should be more important to the Pats. The fact that Jake Ballard is making better progress nowadays and has shown up very well as a blocker is more reason to believe that we will likely see Gronk hitting the PUP. But for now, he should be regarded as quite doubtful for the Bills game to open the season.