Rob Gronkowski has shed his forearm cast and even participated in practice last week. It seems the four-to-six weeks it was expected for him to return from his broken forearm have passed, and he could be set to return in Week 16 — if the team wants him to.
The last two games of the season aren’t entirely meaningless. The Patriots could still receive a first-round bye, but it would take some help. The Broncos would need to lose one game to the Browns or Chiefs — both games are in Denver — and the Texans would have to lose to both the Vikings and Colts. Both situations are unlikely.
If The Patriots still controlled their own destiny for a first-round bye, we’d likely see Gronkowski take the field on Sunday in Jacksonville. But since New England doesn’t, and they can likely beat the Jaguars and Dolphins without their star player, it may be wise to rest him.
The Patriots certainly survived without the NFL’s best tight end the past four weeks. The team has gone 3-1 without him, and only appeared to miss him at all against the 49ers — where he certainly could have helped.
If Gronk is fully healthy, it would take another freak injury to re-aggravate a broken forearm, so playing him would hold just as much risk as any other starter. Gronkowski likely doesn’t need to get re-acclimated to the offense, but seeing some non-practice activity could help before the playoffs. Keeping Gronkowski out could actually risk Tom Brady‘s health as well. Gronk is by far the best blocking tight end on the roster, and the Patriots have to face pass rush threats Jason Babin and Cameron Wake in consecutive weeks.
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