COMMENTARY | A report from the Boston Globe cites an unnamed league source that suggests that New England Patriots' phenomenal tight end Rob Gronkowski has completely recovered from his offseason injury woes, but due to his lack of time on the playing field this year, the Patriots will likely sit Gronkowski for the upcoming Week 3 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Gronkowski has been practicing with the team all week after recovering from multiple surgeries performed on him over the offseason, including four surgeries to repair his left forearm that had been broken twice during the 2012 regular season and back surgery to repair a disc problem.
Timing is Everything
The Patriots' decision to keep Gronkowski out of the lineup in Week 3 against the Buccaneers has everything to do with the fact that New England was victorious in their first two games of the season, Tampa Bay currently sits at 0-2 and has struggled to score points and coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels are far more concerned about the opponents on the slate from Week 4 to Week 6.
In what is possibly the most grueling part of New England's schedule, the Patriots are set to play the Atlanta Falcons and the Cincinnati Bengals on the road, followed by the New Orleans Saints at home. All three teams are expected to compete for playoff spots and have offenses that can put up points in a hurry, something the Patriots failed to do in Week 2 against the New York Jets.
Because Tampa Bay is an opponent Belichick and McDaniels believe they can beat without Gronkowski, it makes sense for the team's most important receiver to sit another week to ensure he is fully ready for Week 4 in Atlanta.
What "Gronk" Has to Offer
Since being drafted by New England in the 2nd round of the 2010 NFL draft, Gronkowski has put up unbelievable numbers at the tight end position, including 187 receptions, 38 touchdowns and an average of 14.2 yards per reception.
He's a massive target at 6'6" and 265 pounds, and now that the Patriots have lost their other star tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was charged with murdering 27-year-old Odin Lloyd in June, Gronkowski remains as the lone big red zone receiver on the roster.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady must be greatly looking forward to Gronkowski's return after he struggled to find a rhythm in New England's 13-10 victory over the New York Jets throwing to young receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins, who combined for a very disappointing 5 catches and 103 yards on 17 targets.
To make matters worse for the Patriots, primary wide receiver Danny Amendola has been sidelined with a groin injury he reaggravated in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills, and New England lost Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Danny Woodhead, three of the team's top five receivers in 2012, during the offseason to free agency.
If the Patriots are going to compete for another AFC championship this year, they are going to need to rely heavily on Rob Gronkowski to put up big numbers and be the go-to receiver on a depleted roster.
You can watch the New England Patriots play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Sept. 22 at 1 p.m. EDT on Fox.
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Justin Haskins is a New England native and a freelance journalist. He has been obsessively following Boston professional sports for 10 years and has been published in numerous online publications and websites.
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