Rumors regarding the health of New England Patriots All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski are running rampant, and there is now doubt that he will be at full strength for Saturday's AFC divisional round playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs. After being a limited participant in Wednesday's practice, Gronkowski was absent from today's session. While it is common for veteran players to have their reps managed early in the week, missing practice on Thursday is not a good sign for a game that is scheduled for Saturday.Appearing in 15 games this season, Gronkowski has been fairly healthy compared to previous years in his career. From 2012 to 2013, Gronkowski only played in 18 games, and some fans and analysts started to refer to him as an injury-prone player. Since his injury-plagued 2012 and 2013 seasons, he has returned as the most dominant tight end in the NFL in 2014 and 2015. Unfortunately, for Gronkowski and the Patriots, the injury bug could be back at the wrong time.
Early reports were conflicted about Gronkowski's health status, and some reporters even said that he was receiving injections in his knee.As confirmed by ESPN, this is the same knee that was injured against the Denver Broncos on November 29. After missing only one game against the Philadelphia Eagles, he no longer appeared on the injury report, and the injury was largely forgotten. While Gronkowski only had two touchdowns in the final four games of the season after returning from the knee injury, he still appeared to be healthy. While wide receiver Julian Edelman's absence was speculated as the reason for the Patriots recent struggles on offense, Gronkowski's health could have been a bigger factor than anyone realized.
While ESPN and the other sources confirmed that Gronkowski is still going to attempt to play against the Chiefs, he is also dealing with a back injury.This injury was not originally listed on the injury report, so it is somewhat concerning that it was added later. In addition to the knee injury, this back injury could potentially slow Gronkowski down. According to the Boston Globe, he underwent surgery on his back in 2013. Whether or not the current back injury is related to the surgery in 2013 is currently unknown, but there is cause for concern.
Later in the day, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported that rumors of Gronkowski receiving injections were not true, and he is preparing for Saturday.While Gronkowski attempting to play is good news for the New England Patriots, it is important that he returns to practice tomorrow in preparation for Saturday. During the regular season, missing a Friday practice for a game on Sunday is always a cause for concern, so it would not be good news if he is absent for a Saturday game.
And even if Gronkowski manages to be in the lineup on Saturday, he could be nothing more than a decoy. While a less than 100 percent Rob Gronkowski is still better than every other tight end in the NFL, the Patriots are going to need him to produce. As reported by the Inquisitr, wide receiver Julian Edelman will be in the lineup, but this is his first game back and he could be rusty.
Until the Patriots officially announce that Gronkowski will be active on Saturday, the rumors and speculation will continue to spiral. While the Patriots originally opened as 5-point favorites according to Vegas Insider, it has now dropped to 4.5 points, according to the consensus. Without a healthy Gronkowski and a rusty Edelman, this game could be a lot closer than what many fans and analysts were originally expecting.
[Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images]