Near the end of the New England Patriots week 11 win over the Indianapolis Colts, star tight end Rob Gronkowski broke his forearm sidelining him for several weeks. It was just one of many injuries that the Patriots have been dealt this season. His return to the practice field Friday is a welcome change for the AFC East champions.
The Patriots injuries started during training camp when offensive linemen Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer suffered injuries that have kept them out for much of the season. Just two weeks into the season the Patriots lost tight end Aaron Hernandez who suffered an ankle injury. He would initially miss the following three weeks and then additional time as the injury had not completely healed. The week after Hernandez’s injury wide receiver Julian Edelman, who had been the team’s number two receiver, suffered a hand injury which kept him out for an extended period of time.
All these injuries to key offensive players came before Gronkowski’s injury against the Colts. Two weeks after Gronkowski suffered his broken forearm, Edelman was again injured. This time it was a broken foot which forced the Patriots to place Edelman on the injured reserve list for the remainder of the season.
On Friday the Patriots held an in-stadium workout in preparation of Sunday night’s matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. For the first time since his injury, Gronkowski took part in the workout with the rest of his teammates. News of his participation shows that Gronkowski is getting closer to recovery which is welcome news to the injury-ridden team.
Days after the injury the Patriots knew that Gronkowski was possibly out for the remainder of the regular season and that looks as though that could be the case. But if the Patriots are able to secure a bye in the first round, which was helped by Monday night’s victory over the Houston Texans, Gronkowski could be back and completely healthy for the team’s first playoff game.
This season the Patriots have been hoping for a change of luck. Each time a key player has been injured, they hope that other that have been injured begin returning without being replaced by another key player. Hernandez returned to action the week following Gronkowski’s injury but soon after the team lost Edelman for the second time. That has been the pattern this season but maybe with Gronkowski’s return, that pattern will change.
The Patriots have had the best offense in the NFL this season even with all the injuries but they can’t expect to repeat as AFC champions if that trend continues. The Patriots are hoping that Gronkowski’s return to practice Friday sparks a trend of players return without being replaced with more injured. If that happens, the Patriots may be on their way to another Super Bowl.