You've waited this long. What's another week or two?
That should be the attitude for the New England Patriots regarding Rob Gronkowski. While he would be a huge boost to the offense right now, it makes more sense to keep him on the bench until he's really ready to go.
The general consensus is that "Gronk" will miss New England's matchup with the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
ESPN's Ed Werder reported on Friday that the Pro Bowl tight end didn't look likely to play this week, despite being able to practice during the week.
Adam Schefter of ESPN followed up on Saturday with much the same news. Gronkowski still had no medical clearance to play.
Now is not the time to make any rash decisions. Even if he is close to 70 or 80 percent, it's not worth putting him back on the field and risking further injury. He's already been forced to have multiple surgeries on his forearm. It's a tender issue that needs to be handled with care.
The Patriots have possibly been down a similar road before, and they chose to rush the tight end back too early, via WEEI.com's Mike Petraglia:
WEEI.com has learned from multiple industry sources that the arm, injured initially on Nov. 18, 2012, against the Colts, might have healed properly on its own with no surgery necessary. But the team and Gronkowski, perhaps looking to hasten his return to the field, decided upon surgery to use an implement in hopes he would be ready for the playoffs.
Gronkowski returned in the 2012 season finale and caught a touchdown pass, but he re-injured the arm two weeks later in a win over the Texans and was unavailable against the Ravens in the AFC championship.
The more prudent plan for this season is to take baby steps with Gronkowski to ensure that he'll be ready for the playoffs. In addition, when he does come back, he won't be susceptible to further injury on his forearm.
The only reason to play him is if—and this is a big if—the Patriots were in dire straits at the moment. Sometimes, in desperation, you have to run the risk of one of your star players getting hurt. This wouldn't be the first time or the last.
However, New England doesn't desperately need him right now. It has started the season 4-1, and even with a loss on Sunday, the team would remain near the top of the division and favorites to win the AFC East.
Who's going to beat them?
What's better is that Danny Amendola has returned to give Tom Brady another trusted option in the passing game.
Gronkowski will be needed in the postseason, though. The Patriots will have a hard time keeping up with the Denver Broncos offense or breaking down the Indianapolis Colts without having Gronk demanding so much of the secondary's attention and offering a target inside the red zone.
The Patriots need to exercise patience rather than hastiness right now. This is a matter of short-term pain for long-term gain.