New England Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski was seen working out and catching passes during practice away from the team, and that led many to wonder if Gronkowski was getting closer to returning. That activity seemed to point towards the reports stating that Gronkowski will be ready around Week 3, and there is no indication that those reports are false. Even after Bill Belichick gruffly stated in his press conference that Gronkowski has always been out there, it certainly appeared as if Week 3 is a legitimate target date for Rob Gronkowski to return.
Yesterday, the NFL Network’s Albert Breer reported that the Patriots are “leaning towards” activating Gronk from the active/PUP list and placing him on the 53-man roster instead of on the reserve/PUP list. Breer added that Gronkowski is not realistically expected to return until late September, but that still means that he can play in a good three games between Week 1 and 6. Placing him on the reserve/PUP would cause Gronkowski to miss the first six games of the regular season, even though he is on track to play in Week 3. He’s such a valuable player that it’s worth keeping him on the roster, but the arguments against placing Gronk on the PUP are also legitimate ones.
For instance, some fans are still concerned about Gronkowski’s recovery from arm and back surgeries. It might be better to have Gronkowski healthy later on in the season, but there is no guarantee of that just by placing him on the PUP list. There isn’t a risk of Gronkowski not being fully ready, and we should also remember that players on the PUP list cannot practice. That would leave Gronk rusty for the seventh game of the season. It is best for the Patriots to keep Gronk on the roster, cut Daniel Fells and his salary, and then allow Gronkowski to ease into things. If that means he plays in Week 4 instead of Week 3, then so be it.