Rob Gronkowski was back at Patriots practice on Monday, and then he was gone again. But, even after four surgeries and no practices this offseason, the all-World tight end might still start the season on the Patriots’ roster.
The Patriots are “leaning toward” keeping Gronkowski on the 53-man roster to start the regular season, according to NFL Network’s Albert Breer. Gronk is currently on the team’s physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list, but that could change come Saturday (Sept. 1) when team’s must make their final cuts down to 53 players.
Gronk underwent multiple surgeries on his left forearm as well as a minor back surgery earlier this offseason, which kept him from participating in OTAs or training camp with his teammates. The 24-year-old tight end was spotted out on the practice field during Patriots practice on Monday, running sprints, doing agility drills and catching passes from trainers, which is a positive sign that he’s still progressing in his recovery.
Even if he does make the active roster for final cutdowns, Gronkowski still isn’t expected to play in Week 1 or even anytime soon. The report notes that Gronk likely won’t return to game action until late September, meaning Week 3 or 4 at the earliest.
If Gronk does make the 53-man roster, it will cost another Patriots player, likely a tight end, his place on the final roster. As of now, it looks like veteran Jake Ballard and undrafted rookie Zach Sudfeld are safe bets to make the team, leaving veterans Michael Hoomanawanui and Daniel Fells fighting it out for the final spot on the depth chart.