It is shaping up to be another whirlwind of injury status updates regarding New England Patriots star TE Rob Gronkowski, so fantasy owners and Patriots fans should buckle up. According to a league source close to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, Rob Gronkowski “is viewed as unlikely to play” in this week’s big game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Both the Patriots and Gronkowski want to bring back the star TE slowly, as they know having him healthy later on in the season is more valuable. They have also invested a significant amount in the high-caliber player, so managing his injury is of paramount importance. For that reason, a Week 5 return would actually be considered one week early, since the target date seems to be Week 6.
So why did the Patriots choose not to place Gronkowski on the PUP? For one, they could have played Rob Gronkowski if they really wanted to, so the added flexibility would have helped. Two, the Patriots likely wanted opponents to gameplan for Gronkowski, especially since he is health enough to play. The Patriots never had the intention of bringing back Gronkowski, but the fact that the option to play him was easily seen had to make teams think twice. But the most important reason why the Patriots decided not to place Gronk on the PUP is because their ability to closely monitor Gronk’s rehab process (you can’t practice if you are on the PUP) has been extremely beneficial to this point (and it will continue to be beneficial until he plays).
Rob Gronkowski is fully expected to be back against the New Orleans Saints in Week 6, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him play against the Bengals. While we should all doubt that Gronkowski will play this week, it is still possible. He is “unlikely to play”, but that doesn’t rule him out by any means.