Jul 30, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski watches drills during training camp at the practice fields of Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
There have been a lot of rumors circulating the airwaves (and twitter-waves) concerning the health of tight end Rob Gronkowski, and when he may return to the football field. It was reported yesterday by ESPN’s Ed Werder that Gronk returning this week to face the Bucs was 50-50. However later in the day, Albert Breer of NFL.com said that the Pats will probably wait another week to play their superstar tight end.
So, do you want my take on when the Patriots should bring Gronk back? Of course you do…
It is no secret that the Patriots offense has struggled mightily in the first two games of the 2013 season. They currently rank 21st in the league in passing offense, and 22nd in overall offense. Those are not Patriot-like offensive statistics, and everybody that watches the game of football knows that the return of Gronkowski will help those numbers. Brady’s connection with his new rookie receivers is still not where he wants it to be at, and with starting wide receiver Danny Amendola still out with a groin injury, Julian Edelman is the only guy that Brady trusts at the moment. When you combine all of this, it is obvious that Gronk should return on Sunday right? Wrong. Even though Gronkowski is a complete freak, and is virtually uncoverable, the time is not right for his return. The fact that the Patriots are still “officially” 50-50 on giving him the okay, tells me that he is not ready to hit the playing field. More often than not, the Patriots will officially be much more positive about a player’s injury status, and then lower the boom and tell us that he is not ready. So by saying Gronk is still 50-50, they are really saying that he is still not game ready.
Now let’s talk more about the football aspect of Gronk’s return. I think that Tampa Bay being the Pats next opponent gives New England the perfect opportunity to give Gronkowski an extra week of rest to fully heal his back and forearm up. Safety Dashon Goldson has been suspended by the league for a game because of his vicious helmet to helmet hits and that weakens a strong Buccaneer secondary. With that being said, they still boast an extremely talented bunch, led by cornerback Darrelle Revis, and because of the lack of firepower that the Patriots currently have on the offensive side of the ball, I believe that this will be another low scoring affair. But it is the offense that Tampa Bay brings into town that excites me. Through two games, there has been only three teams that have gained less yards than the Bucs. For a team that has a good amount of talent on that side of the ball, it is really surprising to see them fare so badly and this bodes incredibly well for an improved Patriots defense. Quarterback Josh Freeman hasn’t been able to right the ship down in Florida, and even the great Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson have had slow starts to the season. Bill Belichick’s defensive unit, led by a strong secondary (what?!?!) and a solid defensive front will shut down Freeman’s group, and this will lead the Patriots to another victory.
The last reason I have for Gronk’s delayed return, is who the Pats face in week four. They have to travel down to Atlanta to take on the high flying Falcons, and you better believe that Brady will want Gronkowski back for that likely shootout. Even though the Patriots secondary has shown a huge step forward in the first two games of 2013, the Falcons offense is on another level. I am positive that the only way New England will come out on top in that game is by outscoring the Falcons. The only way Brady will be able to do that with his current group of receivers, is to have a 100% Rob Gronkowski by his side. If the Pats being him back against Tampa, then he may get re-injured, or still be at 50 or 60% for the Falcons game. New England needs Gronk ready for games like Atlanta, and risking him in a contest with the Buccaneers is not worth it.