New England Patriots

Rob Gronkowski's Return Shouldn't Be Rushed by Patriots

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 30: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots warms up prior to the game against the Miami Dolphins during the game at Gillette Stadium on December 30, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Tyler BrookeSenior Analyst IISeptember 25, 2013

The New England Patriots are still waiting for Rob Gronkowski to return from injury, but they shouldn't rush him as he works on getting back to 100 percent.

So far, it seems that the Patriots are doing just that.

Field Yates of ESPN reported that there was no update on Gronk's game status for this Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, saying:

Asked whether he thought he could be ready to play this Sunday, Gronkowski offered, "I don't know. As of right now, we're just focusing day by day and tomorrow is another step forward and we've got to see. 

"I'm taking everything day by day and today I went out to practice, went into meetings, did everything normal, so just day by day and improving every day." 

Gronkowski reinforced that a big part of his recovery process is regaining the strength throughout his body that was lost as a result of the time off from working out. 

While Patriots fans may be eagerly waiting for Gronk to come back, this is certainly the right move for the Patriots organization.

Gronkowski played in just 11 games in the 2012 regular season, missing over a month after breaking his forearm against the Indianapolis Colts. After being hurried back, he re-broke the same arm in the playoff game against the Houston Texans.

Rather than working on getting back right now, the Patriots can let him get up to 100 percent healthy over time. They're focused on having him healthy for the most important part of the season.

The playoffs.

The Patriots are already 3-0, and with how the rest of the AFC looks, they should likely have a spot in the playoffs by the end of the season. The Miami Dolphins do look legitimate so far through three games, but even if they somehow take the AFC East, the Pats should be in good enough shape to at least grab a wild-card spot.

The Patriots' offense is going to look a lot better once Gronkowski and Danny Amendola return. But for now this is an excellent opportunity for the younger receivers like Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins to get adjusted to the offense and become more valuable players down the road.

Dec 30, 2012; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) scores a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

This seems to be working so far. Both receivers have looked better as the weeks have gone by.

According to Pro Football Focus, Dobson's game grades have gone from minus-2.3 in Week 2 to 0.2 in Week 3, while Thompkins has gone from minus-2.8 in Week 1 to minus-0.8 in Week 2 and finally minus-0.3 in Week 3 (subscription required).

Without Gronkowski in the offense, Tom Brady is having to rely more on his receivers. These rookies are getting involved in the offense more quickly than anticipated.

It may not seem like it now, but in the long run, all of the experience and targets these guys are getting will pay off down the road.  If these two rookies continue to improve and get game-time experience, they will be ready at the end of the season when the team is fighting for a playoff position, then in the postseason when they're trying to make a Super Bowl run.

Once Gronkowski returns, this offense is going to be much improved, but for now the team is still winning games. As long as this continues, the Patriots will have no problem with Gronkowski continuing to get healthy.

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