Rob Gronkowski has been riddled by injuries dating back to his college days at Arizona. After two great seasons in the NFL and becoming one of the best tight ends in the league, Gronkowski has hit a string of bad luck with injuries. He suffered a high ankle sprain in 2011 and now is trying to come back from forearm and back surgery. New England Patriots fans are optimistic with Gronkowski finally practicing in full pads this past week. The fact that the Patriots did not feel the need to put Gronk on the PUP list means that he is getting close to being back in the lineup. But with a talent like his, there is no need to rush the star tight end back, especially with the favorable schedule early in the 2013 NFL season.
The buzz around Gronkowski is that he is set to be back by week three or four, but many fans and fantasy owners are hoping that the 6-foot-6 tight end will be in the lineup sooner than that. With his history of injuries, especially recently, the Patriots should be cautious because Gronkowski’s value is much more important later in the season than it is in the first few games. Another reason why the Patriots do not need to rush him back is the fact that they open the season in Buffalo against the Buffalo Bills and then have their home opener four days later on a Thursday night against the New York Jets. NFL fans are aware of the disaster both the Bills and the Jets QB situation has been this preseason, and both teams look like they will struggle overall. Though the AFC East is not that strong after New England, the Bills and Jets will most likely be fighting for last place this year. With that said, rushing Gronk back for these two games would be foolish. The Patriots’ defense is much improved and Tom Brady has looked good this preseason throwing to his new receivers. Though Gronkowski would have an impact, the risk of injury is not worth it for these games in which the Patriots should win easily.
The real question comes into play when the Patriots will have back to back games against NFC South opponents when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers week three and are the Sunday night matchup week four against the Atlanta Falcons. Tampa Bay is a team with a lot of questions around them, but they look to be a promising young team. The Patriots most likely can win that game without Gronkowski, but his impact would help. Week four will be the real test. Atlanta is a proven team with a high powered offense and the game could turn into a shootout. The Patriots may struggle to match the Falcons’ offensive power unless they have their starting tight end. This would be the most important game of the season through four weeks and it would be ideal to have Gronk back in the lineup.
Getting Gronkowski some game action against Tampa Bay would not be a bad idea as long as he is 100 percent. But bringing him back any time sooner would be foolish. Risking injury against two teams that the Patriots should have no problem handling would not be smart. As they have come to find out the last two years, a healthy Gronkowski is much more important late in the season and in the playoffs than it is early.