By Brett LoGiurato
September 12, 2013

Rob Gronkowski will "definitely" be back by Week 4. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) Rob Gronkowski will "definitely" be back by Week 4. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski could return in Week 3 and "will be playing" by Week 4,'s Ian Rapoport reported on Thursday.

The Patriots "hope" he will be back next week for the team's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If not, according to Rapoport, the team thinks he will "definitely" be back for the Patriots' Week 4 showdown against the Atlanta Falcons.

Gronkowski’s condition has continued to improve in the aftermath of offseason surgeries on his left forearm and back. Last week, he practiced with the team in full pads for the first time since undergoing his surgeries. He did not play in the Patriots' Thursday night game against the New York Jets.

Gronkowski broke his left forearm in Week 11 last season, and he re-injured it during the first quarter of the Patriots’ first playoff game. The Patriots have previously said that a late-September return is likely.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady would be thrilled by the addition of Gronkowski to New England’s offense. In Week 1, he threw only three passes to tight ends — a position that normally has been a strength for the team with Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, who is now incarcerated.

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