Patriots: Rob Gronkowski won’t play in Tom Brady’s New England return

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 26: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 26: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots might be welcoming Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady back to Foxborough after his two decades of dominance, but he isn’t the only former Patriot that was scheduled to make a return to Foxborough, as Rob Gronkowski was also going to return to Massachusetts.

Gronkowski came out of retirement in order to link back up with Brady in Tampa Bay, and while he hasn’t been the same jaw-dropping phenom that will be a first-ballot Hall of Fame player when he retires, he’s proven that he can still be an effective tight end and red zone weapon at this stage of his career.

Gronkowski is dominant when he’s healthy, but due to his style of play, he hasn’t always had the best luck when it comes to staying off of the injury report. Thanks to a hit he suffered against the Rams, Gronkowski will officially not make his triumphant return to Gillette Stadium.

Gronkowski has been ruled out for the marquee Week 4 matchup and will not even make the trip down to Foxborough. If Brady wants to take down his mentor in Bill Belichick, he will have to do so without one of his favorite targets at his disposal.

The Patriots won’t get to see Rob Gronkowski back in New England.

Gronkowski piled up 623 yards and seven touchdowns during his first season with Tampa, which is impressive considering that’s right about where he was during his final season with the Patriots. In 2021, Gronkowski has already recorded four touchdown catches in three games, proving that he is Brady’s trusted red zone target.

Gronk’s accomplishments in New England need no introduction, as he was so dominant for a period of time that it could be easily argued that his peak was the peak of tight end play at this level. He might not reach peak Gronk again, but he’s still well above average when compared to other tight ends across the league.

OJ Howard will likely take on a bigger role this week, but considering that he has played in just seven games and recorded 13 catches since Brady arrived in Tampa Bay, and when factoring in the notion that Bruce Arians’ scheme will often prioritize getting wide receivers touches over tight ends, New England got a massive break.

While Brady will get all of the attention in his return, fans shouldn’t forget that Gronkowski was a huge part of the engine that helped make the Patriots almost unbeatable for the better part of a decade. Whenever he returns to Foxborough as a visitor, he deserves to get showered with praise.