Rob Gronkowski

Patriots Notes: Gronk, Brady, Burkhead

Last week, the Patriots dropped running back Kenjon Barner even though rookie Sony Michel is still limited in practice with a knee injury. That may indicate that the Pats believe Rex Burkhead will return to action in early December, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com writes.

Burkhead has not been seen since the third week of the season when he suffered a concussion, but he returned to practice on Nov. 8. Per the league’s IR rules, Burkhead can return to action as early as Dec. 2 against the Vikings.

Michel still figures to be the Patriots’ primary back, but Reiss expects Burkhead to enter the game in every third series. He may also get involved in the passing game after averaging 3.0 catches per game in 2017, though James White will likely lead the charge in that department.

Here’s more from New England:

  • After missing three of the past four games with a back injury, tight end Rob Gronkowski is expected to play against the Jets after the bye week, sources tell ESPN’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). Unfortunately, back and ankle trouble has hampered Gronk throughout the year. For the most part, however, he’s been productive when on the field. In seven games, Gronk has 29 catches for 448 yards and one touchdown.
  • Tom Brady is finally showing signs of his age, as Ben Volin of The Boston Globe writes. The 41-year-old superstar is behind the likes of Mitchell Trubisky and Ryan Fitzpatrick in passer rating, his interception rate is its highest since 2011, and he’s struggling mightily against the blitz. Of course, the Patriots would be well-protected against Brady’s decline if they still had Jimmy Garoppolo as his backup. On the plus side, the Patriots did not tie up cap space with a huge extension for the young QB and the trade – in a roundabout way – netted them second-round cornerback Duke Dawson and the Bears’ second-round pick in 2019.

Injury Notes: Gronk, Mack, Pack, Eagles

A third Rob Gronkowski injury absence appears to be in the cards. The Patriots will not deploy their All-Pro tight end to play Sunday against the Titans, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. While Gronkowski is traveling with the team to Nashville, per ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss (on Twitter), he’s expected to be held out. Gronk missed games against the Bears and Packers but played in Buffalo on the Monday night in between those tilts. He’s been dealing with back and ankle trouble. While the Patriots have been able to win without their top pass-catcher, these repeated absences are obviously a concern for the future Hall of Famer’s availability for New England’s stretch run and potentially his post-2018 NFL future. It’s likely the Pats are attempting to rest Gronk now to hopefully see him healthy for key late-season games and the playoffs, but that can’t be considered a lock given his extensive injury history. Gronkowski hitting his incentive targets may now be unrealistic as well.

Here’s the latest from the Week 10 injury front.

  • Better news for the Bears. They’re in line to have both Khalil Mack and Allen Robinson back on Sunday when they face the Lions, per the Associated Press. Mack is no longer on the injury report after missing the past two Chicago games because of an ankle malady. His defensive player of the year chances took a hit because of this hiatus and Aaron Donald continuing another all-world season but Mack figures to still be in the running and can help a team attempting reach the playoffs for the first time in eight years.
  • The Lions‘ Robinson coverage options will be limited. Darius Slay is out for Week 10, joining guard T.J. Lang in that regard. Slay’s played in each of Detroit’s previous eight games and hasn’t missed time since 2016 but is battling a knee injury. A neck ailment will sideline Lang, who also missed time because of a concussion this season.
  • A tough injury night against the Patriots will have after-effects for the Packers. Kevin King will not play Sunday against the Dolphins because of a hamstring injury. Bashaud Breeland, whom ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky notes appeared to impress the Packers in his Green Bay debut, figures to see more time.
  • Both Sidney Jones and Jalen Mills are going to miss Sunday night’s Eagles-Cowboys game, but Corey Graham will return after missing four games, per Sirius XM Radio’s Adam Caplan (on Twitter). After claiming Cre’Von LeBlanc off waivers earlier this week, surely due to injuries affecting the aforementioned duo, the Eagles have seven corners on their roster.
  • Taco Charlton and Connor Williams aren’t playing for the Cowboys on Sunday. Xavier Su’a-Filo appears to be the choice to replace Williams at left guard for Dallas, per executive VP Stephen Jones (Twitter link). A full-time Texans starter the past two seasons, Su’a-Filo has not played this season. Williams is down with a knee injury.

Rob Gronkowski Expects To Play In Week 8

Rob Gronkowski was absent on the Patriots’ trip to Chicago last weekend, but it doesn’t sound like he expects to miss their voyage to Buffalo.

The Buffalo-area native’s comments Saturday point to a return for the Patriots’ Week 8 tilt against the Bills. Gronk said (via the Providence Journal’s Mark Daniels, on Twitter) he expects to travel to Buffalo and play in the game.

Ankle and back injuries kept Gronkowski in New England while the Patriots beat the Bears, but Gronk got in limited practices Thursday and Friday. He’ll likely be given a questionable designation, and given his importance to the Patriots’ big picture, it wouldn’t be a shock if the four-time All-Pro were held out. But Gronkowski said (via Daniels, on Twitter) he feels good going into Monday night.

It will be tough for Gronkowski to trigger his incentive package if he misses much more time. For Gronk to achieve the $3.3MM in incentives, he’ll need to hit three of the following thresholds — 70 catches, 1,085 receiving yards, nine touchdowns and 80 percent playing time. He’s a bit behind the required pace thus far, carrying a 26-reception, 405-yard, one-touchdown stat line through six games. He also has $1MM tied to per-game roster bonuses.

While the Patriots put up 38 points on an upper-echelon Bears defense without Gronk, their offense is obviously much better when the future Hall of Fame tight end is on the field.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rob Gronkowski Likely To Return In Week 8

Although he missed the Patriots’ Week 7 victory over the Bears, tight end Rob Gronkowski is expected to return when New England faces Buffalo in Week 8, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Gronkowski never even made the Patriots’ team flight to Chicago, as he’s currently dealing with back and ankle injuries. Back issues, of course, have been a recurring problem for Gronk ever since he entered the league in 2010, but that apparently won’t keep him out of next week’s game. He’ll have an extra day to get ready, as the Patriots are playing on Monday night in Week 8.

While the Patriots managed to pull out a victory against Chicago without Gronkowski, New England’s offense is clearly a more well-rounded unit with its All-Pro tight end on the field. Gronkowski also has $3.3MM in performance-based incentives built into his contract, and every missed contest deprives Gronk a chance to boost his yearly statistics. Additionally, he collects roughly $109K via a bonus for each game he’s active.

Without Gronkowski available, the Patriots turned to Dwayne Allen as their top tight end against the Bears. Fellow tight end Jacob Hollister may have played a role had he not also been inactive with a hamstring injury.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Gordon, Pats, Lee, Giants, Lions

In a development that’s sure to prompt thousands of early phone alarms Sunday morning, Melvin Gordon has been downgraded to questionable. The Chargers‘ top threat is now a true game-time decision to play against the Titans in London, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Considering this is an 8:30am CT game, this will obviously test the commitment of Gordon’s North American-based fantasy owners while putting the Bolts down one of their best players. Gordon was a limited participant in Friday’s practice, but as ESPN’s Eric Williams notes (on Twitter), wasn’t listed on the injury report until Saturday. A hamstring malady places Gordon’s availability for Week 7 in question. The Chargers took precautions against a Gordon absence by promoting Detrez Newsome from their practice squad. Since finishing his first two NFL seasons on IR, Gordon has played in 22 straight games and emerged as one of the league’s best backs.

Here’s the latest from around the league:

  • The Cowboys will have the services of Sean Lee on Sunday against the Redskins. Lee is not on Dallas’ injury report for its game against Washington. He missed the past three games because of a hamstring strain, opening the door for first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch to log plenty of playing time. Vander Esch responded and enters Week 7 as Pro Football Focus’ No. 2 overall linebacker. Lee, Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith will split time in Dallas’ nickel package, Todd Archer of ESPN.com notes.
  • A disastrous Giants start will result in more changes to their maligned offensive line. Big Blue will bench free agent guard pickup Patrick Omameh and move center John Greco to guard on Monday night, Dan Duggan of The Athletic reports (subscription required). Former Chargers starting center Spencer Pulley will move into the role of Giants first-string snapper, Duggan adds. Omameh suffered a knee injury in practice this week, but Duggan notes this decision was made prior to that occurring. PFF slots the former Jaguars starter as its No. 67 guard (out of 73 full-time players at this position). He’s signed to a three-year, $15MM deal. Pulley, who started all 16 games for the Chargers last season, landed in New York via post-preseason waiver claim. Pulley will join Greco and right tackle Chad Wheeler as replacement starters for this year’s Giants front.
  • Despite logging three limited practices this week, Ziggy Ansah will not return for the Lions on Sunday. Detroit declared its top pass rusher out for a fifth straight game. The franchise-tagged defensive end said (via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press) like he felt like he could play, but the Lions will continue to soldier on without him. He’s been trying to surmount a shoulder injury since exiting in Week 1 because of it.
  • T.J. Lang, however, will return to the Lions’ lineup. The veteran guard missed two games because of a concussion and sought medical advice from several doctors, per Kyle Meinke of MLive.com. While Lang’s return will be a welcome sight for Lions fans, Meinke does not expect Detroit to keep him around in 2019. The final year of Lang’s Lions deal comes with an $11.7MM cap hit. It would save the Lions $9MM if they cut Lang, for whom they authorized a $9.5MM-AAV deal in 2017.
  • Rob Gronkowski is almost certainly going to miss the Patriots-Bears game, with ankle and back trouble keeping the all-world tight end home after his team departed for Chicago. But the Patriots will also be without backup Jacob Hollister, the team announced. This leaves Dwayne Allen as the only healthy tight end available. The former Colt has one catch this season. The Pats still haven’t declared Gronk out, which would make for an interesting sequence of events were he to play without boarding the team plane.

Rob Gronkowski Out For Week 7?

Rob Gronkowski is listed as questionable on the Patriots’ injury report. That designation may soon change.

The Patriots departed for Chicago, and the Boston Globe’s Jim McBride reports (via Twitter) Gronkowski was not with the team. Thus, he stands to miss New England’s Week 7 game.

Gronk is listed on the Pats’ injury report with ankle and back maladies, with NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport noting the back trouble surfaced Friday (Twitter link).

While Gronkowski could conceivably take a later flight to the Windy City, not traveling with the team is almost always a sign a player will not participate in a game. The Patriots are still not ruling Gronk out for Sunday, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter), but it certainly seems a long shot he’ll play.

The 29-year-old tight end’s played in all six Patriots games thus far this season but is a perpetual injury risk, having missed extensive time in the past. Back trouble has plagued him in the recent past, too, with Gronk having missed much of New England’s 2016 Super Bowl title season with back issues.

In the conversation for greatest tight end ever, Gronkowski is in his ninth season with the Patriots. He’s caught 26 passes for 405 yards and a touchdown this season. While his yards-per-game figure of 67.5 is down from his best seasons, he made some key catches in the Patriots’ 43-40 win over the Chiefs.

The four-time All-Pro also agreed to another incentive package this offseason, and the $3.3MM package is tied largely to his availability. Any absence will hurt his chances of cashing in like he did last season.

Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister would be the top Patriot tight ends if Gronk indeed can’t go. They’ve combined for four catches this season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: McCoy, Bills, Wake, Pats

Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports says the odds of the Bills trading any veterans — like RB LeSean McCoy, whose name has recently surfaced in trade rumors — are very slim. La Canfora writes that it would take a “bounty” to pry McCoy or Jerry Hughes away from Buffalo, as the team considers both players, who are both signed beyond this season to club-friendly deals, to be vital veteran components of its rebuild. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com agrees, saying it could take as much as a second-round draft pick to land McCoy.

Now let’s round up a few more notes from the AFC East, starting with more from Orchard Park:

  • This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but Rapoport tweets that the Bills have no intention of playing newly-acquired signal-caller Derek Anderson, barring injury. Anderson is with the club to tutor rookie QB Josh Allen, not to take any of his playing time.
  • From the “something to keep an eye on” department, Jenna Cottrell of 13 WHAM tweets that Allen asked wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin if he wanted to work on routes during pregame warm-ups today, and Benjamin told him no. The Bills acquired Benjamin at the trade deadline last year but have not gotten much production out of him, and he does not appear especially motivated to perform well in his platform year.
  • Dolphins DE Cameron Wake recently underwent arthroscopic knee surgery but could be back as soon as next week, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. Normally such a procedure would require a four-week recovery period, but Wake is such a quick healer that he may make it back in a fraction of that time.
  • Mike Reiss of ESPN.com observes that Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty is on pace to recoup the money that he lost when he agreed to a pay cut before the regular season. New England gave him the opportunity to make up the difference via incentives, and McCourty is well on his way to hitting those incentives. The same cannot be said for Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, however.
  • Reiss also notes that Kenjon Barner, who has been shuttled on and off of the Patriots‘ roster several times since September 12, may have a little more job security right now. Barner’s former club, the Eagles, are very much in need of RB help, and the Pats know that if they cut Barner again, they may not get him back.
  • Darryl Slater of NJ.com tweets that Jets defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers, who is dealing with a serious illness, is on the sidelines for the team’s game against the Colts today. It does not sound as if he has resumed his coordinator responsibilities yet, but it is a good sign nonetheless.

Patriots Notes: Gordon, Cooks, Gronk

New Patriots wideout Josh Gordon will make his New England debut today, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). Gordon was inactive for last week’s loss against the Lions, but the Pats are sorely in need of some playmaking ability at the wide receiver position, and Gordon certainly has the potential to give them exactly that.

Let’s take a quick look at a few more notes out of Foxboro as the Patriots get set to take on the Dolphins in what could surprisingly be a pivotal divisional matchup:

  • Speaking of playmaking wideouts, given the disappointing performance of New England’s receiving corps thus far, plenty are wondering whether the Pats were right to trade Brandin Cooks to the Rams in the offseason. When factoring in what the team netted in its trade to acquire Cooks from the Saints in 2017 and the trade that sent him to LA, Doug Kyed of NESN.com believes the Patriots were right to make the move. The Pats ultimately received a year of Cooks, a 2017 third-round pick, the 2018 No. 23 overall pick, and a 2018 sixth-rounder in exchange for another year of Cooks, a 2017 fourth-round pick, the 2017 No. 32 overall pick, and a 2018 fourth-round pick. That represents good value, especially when considering the Pats would have had to pay Cooks $8.5MM this year and might have received a 2020 compensatory third-rounder if they let him walk in free agency (which they almost certainly would have). Plus, New England could not have predicted the Julian Edeleman suspension, so even though the results might indicate the Cooks trade was a bad one with the benefit of hindsight, Kyed believes the process was right.
  • The Patriots have already put nine players on IR since the start of training camp, as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com observes. Reiss points out that the team put just 11 players on IR all of last season, and just four during the 2016 Super Bowl season. Reiss notes that only Rex Burkhead and Duke Dawson are the only two players who could realistically return from IR in 2018.
  • In light of last week’s Rob Gronkowski trade reports, Reiss points out that there had not been much communication between Gronk and the Pats before the star tight end was informed of the potential trade to Detroit. Reiss wonders whether New England really would have pulled the trigger on the deal, or if it simply used the trade as a way to reignite conversations with Gronkowski
  • Reiss also notes that last week’s AFC Defensive Player of the Week, the Bills’ Matt Milano, was drafted by Buffalo with the fifth-rounder it acquired from the Pats when New England signed then-RFA Mike Gillislee. Needless to say, that transaction looks like a big win for the Bills right now.
  • The Patriots cut Gordon’s former Browns teammate, Corey Coleman, from their practice squad yesterday.

Lions Nearly Traded For Rob Gronkowski This Offseason

The Lions and Patriots nearly completed a blockbuster trade this offseason that would have sent star tight end Rob Gronkowski to Detroit, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com recently reported that the Pats were close to dealing Gronk earlier this year, and while Rapoport did not name the team that nearly landed Gronkowski, it sounds as if the Lions were that club.

Indeed, Rapoport said that, when Gronkowski learned that he was about to be traded, he threatened to retire instead. That jibes with Schefter’s report today, with the ESPN scribe noting that Gronk said he would retire rather than go to the Lions, and that the tight end declined to return Detroit’s calls even though the Lions are led by former New England staffers Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia.

Although Schefter does not say what the Lions were willing to give up for Gronkowski, he notes that discussions peaked during the week of the draft, so it sounds as if 2018 draft capital would have been heading to New England. After Gronkowski threatened retirement, he met with Patriots officials and the two sides discussed a plan for Gronkowski to continue playing, though Gronk made it clear he would only play for the Pats. At that point, New England called off trade talks, and the team ultimately sweetened Gronkowski’s contract.

It certainly seems as though the 0-2 Lions could use Gronkowski’s services. Although the team is not hurting for receiver or running back talent, the Lions are thin at the tight end position, and QB Matthew Stafford would surely love someone of Gronkowski’s caliber creating mismatches in the middle of the field.

Through two games this season, the 29-year-old Gronkowski has nine catches for 138 yards and a touchdown.

Patriots Notes: Gronk, McDaniels, Guerrero

Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link) passes along a couple of interesting items this morning regarding several key faces in the Patriots’ locker room. While we knew that New England had indeed attempted to trade star tight end Rob Gronkowski this offseason, Rapoport says that those trade talks were “intense” and that the Pats were actually close to dealing Gronk at one point. However, Rapoport reports that Gronkowski then stepped in and adamantly informed the front office that he would either retire or remain with the Patriots, but that he would not go anywhere else. At that point, Rapoport says, trade talks were scrapped and, as we know, the team sweetened Gronk’s contract late last month.

Let’s take a look at a few more notes out of Foxborough as the Pats get set to kick off the 2018 campaign:

  • In response to Rapoport’s discussion about Gronkowski this morning, Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston revisited a report of his own (video link) in which he indicated that the Patriots did talk with several clubs about a Gronkowski trade. However, Curran says interest in Gronk was more tepid than one might think — in contrast to Rapoport’s report that the Pats almost had a deal in place — and that Tom Brady informed the team that he would not play if his top tight end was dealt.
  • In the same report linked above, Rapoport says that one reason OC Josh McDaniels left the Colts at the altar this offseason is because the Patriots gave him a five-year contract — which is largely unheard of for a coordinator — and that the contract pays McDaniels like a first-time head coach. In fact, Rapoport says that McDaniels is by far the highest-paid coordinator in the league, and his contract will eventually pay him over $4MM per year.
  • The role of Brady’s personal trainer, Alex Guerrero, has been one of the sources of conflict between Brady and head coach Bill Belichick, as we explained earlier this year. However, Rapoport reports that a compromise on Guerrero’s role has been reached. Under the terms of the compromise, Brady and Gronkowski may use Guerrero’s services when they so choose, and Guerrero has “solid” access to Gillette Stadium. Guerrero may also travel with the team, though Rapoport says he is unlikely to travel as much as he did in the past. The most important thing for all sides is that they do not publicly discuss the Guerrero issue in the future, and Rapoport no longer expects the trainer’s role to be a major storyline.
  • The Bills claimed punter Corey Bojorquez  off waivers from the Patriots last week even though Bojorquez never punted in a preseason game. Bojorquez’s lack of game usage was somewhat surprising given that he was seen as a legitimate threat to unseat incumbent punter Ryan Allen, but Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says the team may have been trying to “hide” Bojorquez so that he could clear waivers and return to the Pats’ practice squad, which Bojorquez himself appeared to confirm.
  • Reiss also passes along a couple of notes on the Patriots’ two newest practice squad players, WR Jace Billingsley and T Eric Smith. Reiss says that the team had interest in signing Billingsley to the practice squad last year — he ultimately chose to remain in Detroit on the Lions’ taxi squad — and that the Pats are paying Smith $20K per week (instead of the standard $7,600) because they coveted tackle depth and needed to give him a compelling reason to come to Foxborough.