New England Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski dressed out fully for practice yesterday, and that was very encouraging news. Today, the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe reports that not only was Rob Gronkowski at practice this morning, but he also participate in 11-on-11 team drills. Either the Patriots are smokescreening opponents like crazy, or Gronkowski is continuing to make tangible progress. It could be a little bit of both, but it definitely looks like Gronks is legitimately progressing. There have been nothing but good reports coming out of Foxboro regarding his recovery from surgery, and the Week 3 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks to be a realistic target date for Gronkowski’s return.
In fact, Jeff Howe wrote this morning that “there are whispers around Gillette Stadium” that Rob Gronkowski could make his debut in Week 2 in the rivalry game against the New York Jets. While Howe seems skeptical at this, he does say that the team has high hopes. Gronk clearly isn’t ready to play against the Buffalo Bills in Week 1, so it’s hard for me to believe that he would be ready to suit up for the game against the Jets, considering it is a short week (the Jets and Patriots play on Thursday).
However, the fact that Rob Gronkowski is already doing 11-on-11s and started to wear full pads yesterday shows that he is definitely progressing, and I would bet that we’ll see Gronk playing in Week 3 or 4. The Patriots seem confident in his health, and the move to release both Jake Ballard and Daniel Fells showed it. Gronk is on the 53-man roster for a reason, and I think the Patriots are targeting him to make a debut a few games before the sixth game of the season (Gronk would have been eligible to come off the reserve/PUP after six games).
Rob Gronkowski and Zach Sudfeld, by the way, both took first-team reps at TE today as Gronk eases into things.