Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski reportedy will play against the Saints. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
The Patriots' offense reached a low point in a 13-6 loss to the Bengals on Sunday. After 52 straight games with a touchdown pass, quarterback Tom Brady came up empty. The Patriots didn't cross the goal line for the first time since 2009. But help might be on the way.
Pro Football Talk reported that Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is expected to be cleared this week and likely will play on Sunday against the Saints. Other NFL media quickly confirmed the report.
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Gronkowski’s return could end a tense chapter in his Patriots career. His recovery from offseason surgery on his forearm and back reportedly has created a difference of opinion between the Patriots and the Pro Bowler's inner circle, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Schefter reported on Sept. 28 that many within the Patriots organization have concluded Gronkowski is ready after enduring contact and tackles during practices in the past two weeks. Patriots players also are “wondering what the holdup is,” according to Schefter. But Gronkowksi's representatives disagree.
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But it goes beyond the Patriots’ decision and to Gronkowski’s circle of family, friends and advisers, who have not been as anxious as the rest of New England to have the tight end back on the field, even though he caught about 15 passes in practice as recently as Thursday, according to sources. It sets up a mystery for which only Gronkowski’s inner circle would appear to have the answer.
Gronkowski’s inner circle would like to ensure that Gronkowsi is fully recovered from his five surgeries in the past year — four on his forearm, one on his back in June — before the tight end plays again, according to sources. Their belief is that the Patriots are 3-0 without him, they’re playing a non-conference game Sunday night, and there’s no need to rush Gronkowski back until the doctors are fully convinced it’s OK for him to return.