FOXBORO, Mass. — Rob Gronkowski has now missed the Patriots’ last five games waiting for his surgically repaired right forearm to heal. While his return to practice two weeks ago was an encouraging sign, Gronk didn’t play in Jacksonville and may be absent again this Sunday against the Dolphins.
Bill Belichick discussed Gronk’s health during his news conference on Wednesday, referring to the tight end as “day-to-day” and explaining that he’s not yet ready for a return.
“We’ll see how he is,” Belichick said. “He did more last week than the week before and we’ll see where he’s at today and tomorrow when we go out there [to practice], we’ll see what he can do. We’ll take it day-to-day, we’ll make decisions day-to-day based on where he’s at. He’s moving along, [he's] not ready yet. We’ll take it day-to-day and see how it goes.”
Gronkowski broke his forearm on an extra point during the final few minutes of the Patriots’ 59-24 rout of the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 18, but hasn’t found his way back on the playing field since. The reason for his delayed return might not be extended rest heading into the playoffs, as many have suggested, but that he has yet to be cleared medically.
“I think those are decisions really that are made medically,” Belichick said. “If the players are able to play, then we play them. If they’re not, then we don’t. It’s the same for every player, we treat them all the same. There’s nothing more important than the player’s health and safety, so when they’re cleared to play, then we make playing decisions.
“If they’re not cleared to play, then there’s no decision to make,” he continued. “And I don’t think that’s a decision that a coach makes or influences, those are medical decisions if it’s a medical situation. Once it’s a competitive decision then that’s a coaching decision. If it’s a medical decision, then it’s made by medical people.”
That assessment doesn’t rule Gronk out for this Sunday, but it does cast some doubt on the outlook for his availability against the Dolphins.
The Patriots are being very cautious with the 23-year-old Gronkowski, and rightfully so, as he’s expected to be a key to the Patriots’ success in the postseason. They also may be taking more precautions after watching Aaron Hernandez‘s early return lead to a lingering ankle injury that has hampered him for much of the season.
Gronk caught 53 passes for 748 yards and 10 touchdowns in 10 games before suffering the injury. His original timetable for a return was four to eight weeks. So, even if he misses Sunday’s game against Miami, he’ll still be on schedule for a return in the Patriots’ first playoff game, whenever that turns out to be.