Rob Gronkowski Expected to Return from Back Injury vs. Jets After Bye Week

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistNovember 18, 2018

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski speaks to reporters after an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018, in Orchard Park, N.Y. The Patriots won 25-6. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

The New England Patriots are expected to have tight end Rob Gronkowski available next week against the New York Jets, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN:

Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter

After missing three of the past four games with a lingering back injury, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is expected to be able to play in New England’s next game after Sunday’s bye against the New York Jets, per sources. More on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown.

Gronkowski, 29, has had a tough season, as injuries have limited him to just seven games. He's posted 29 receptions for 448 yards and a score.

According to ESPN.com, "Gronkowski has shown improvement in the practices leading up to the bye." He traveled with the team to Tennessee last week, although he wasn't cleared to play.

Gronkowski has 77 career touchdown receptions in 109 games. He hasn't played a full season since 2011, however, missing 29 games in the past seven seasons. For a Patriots team ranked 11th in passing offense (268.7 YPG), a mark below their lofty standards, a healthy Gronkowski would be a major boost.

Count quarterback Tom Brady among those who would love to see him back in action:

"Absolutely. I've played a lot of football with him, and I think I have a lot of trust and confidence in a lot of the things that have happened over the years. When he's not there, there's a different level with other players. Sometimes we don't try things because Gronk isn't in there. Sometimes we do.

"Obviously, the more dependable, consistent players you have on the field, the more productive and efficient you'll be, which leads to more points, which leads to better opportunities to win the game, which is ultimately the reason we're all here."

The Patriots have weapons outside of Gronkowski, with James White having an excellent season, Julian Edelman providing Brady with a steady option, and Josh Gordon emerging as a big-play threat. But few players can create mismatches like Gronkowski, especially in the red zone.

"There's been a lot of moving parts this year," Brady noted, per Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. 'We've got to get out there and practice together, and that transitions [to games]. We haven't had that, which is not an excuse. Every team goes through that, but we're trying to adjust and adapt."