Rob Gronkowski's return is becoming a bit of a curious case.
Each of the past few weeks, there has been optimism early in the week and an inactive designation on game day. That's the case once again this week, as the New England Patriots tight end will miss the team's Week 4 game against the Falcons. He and injured receiver Danny Amendola didn't make the flight to Atlanta and have been ruled out. ESPN first reported that news.
The reason Gronkowski's return raises some eyebrows is the conflicting reports that were leaked through the week about whether he'd return, and the fact that it has been four weeks since Gronkowski went through his first full-pads practice.
Only Gronkowski knows if he's physically ready (reports this week said it was his forearm bothering him more than his back; he had offseason surgeries on both), but it's just a bit unusual for a player to not return to action four weeks after he began practicing again. Especially when every week has brought a renewed sense that he might make his 2013 debut.
The Patriots offense could use Gronkowski and Amendola. Without many reliable receivers, Tom Brady and the Patriots offense has struggled a bit. The good news for New England is it has gone 3-0 despite those players being out and should get them back at some point. The bad news is that this week's trip to the Georgia Dome will be a lot tougher without them.