FOXBORO, Mass. — One of the biggest question marks surrounding the New England Patriots this week is the status of Rob Gronkowski.
Gronkowski reportedly suffered a chest injury during Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks, and his availability for this weekend’s game against the San Francisco 49ers remains unclear .
Patriots coach Bill Belichick declined to give an update on the tight end’s condition during his Tuesday conference call, and he did the same Wednesday morning, responding to two Gronkowski-related questions with a total of eight words.
Question: In his seven years with you now, what have you learned about Rob Gronkowski’s toughness both mentally and physically?
Belichick: “It’s good. Very good.”
Q: If Rob Gronkowski is not available this week, how much does the past experience of not having him available help your team?
Belichick: “Yeah, I don’t know.”
Gronkowski was missing from practice Wednesday, and it’s worth noting that the nature of his injury reportedly prevented him from flying to New York on Tuesday for a promotional appearance. The Patriots must make a cross-country flight later this week ahead of their road game at Levi’s Stadium.
Some additional notes from Wednesday:
— Gronkowski and quarterback Tom Brady both stayed in Sunday’s game after absorbing painful-looking hits. Brady’s came in the form of a shot to the quad from Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor, who was called for roughing the passer on the play.
“He’s awesome, man,” Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola said of Brady. “He’s such a tough player and competitor. He’s our leader. He’s a great quarterback, and to see him get hit like that — it was a clean hit. It wasn’t malicious. (Chancellor’s) hands missed the offensive lineman, and he kind of came in, so it wasn’t a malicious play. But he got hit pretty good, and Tom got up quick, as expected.”
— If Gronkowski is unable to go Sunday, we could see Matt Lengel make his NFL debut.
The Patriots signed Lengel off the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad earlier this month, and he is one of three tight ends on their 53-man roster, along with Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett.
“We’ve thrown him in there on a few things,” Belichick said. “He seems to be picking things up fairly well. He’s long. A lot of it has been running the other team’s plays and some fundamental work and things like that after practice, but he’s making progress. He’s good to work with, a good kid, works hard.”
— The Patriots have posted lackluster turnover and sack numbers this season, ranking 26th in the NFL in the former and tied for 25th in the latter.
Asked how New England can remedy this problem, defensive end Chris Long offered a straightforward solution.
“Get more sacks and turnovers,” he said.
Well, there you have it.
— While the Patriots as a team are unfamiliar with most of the 49ers’ current roster, Long is not. Before signing with New England this past offseason, he spent eight seasons in the NFC West, playing San Francisco twice a season as a member of the then-St. Louis Rams.
Long had high praise for Niners running back Carlos Hyde and quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and he was especially complimentary of San Francisco’s offensive tackles, Joe Staley and Trent Brown.
“They have two really good offensive tackles,” Long said. “Not to overlook the entire line, but as far as offensive tackles are concerned, that pair of them is as good as we’ve played.”
Thumbnail photo via Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports Images