Multiple sources report New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has been cleared to return to play this Sunday afternoon when the Patriots host the undefeated New Orleans Saints at Foxborough.
Gronk’s return comes after the Patriot’s worst offensive showing so far this year, losing their first game of the season (13-6) to the Cincinnati Bengals in Ohio. It was the first time in 52 games that quarterback Tom Brady did not throw a touchdown pass, falling just two short of upcoming opponent Drew Brees’ 2012 record of 54 games with a touchdown.
Gronk has been inactive since the Patriots were eliminated in the playoffs last year, and underwent multiple surgeries on his forearms and back in the offseason. Dr. James Andrews is “in charge” of deciding whether or not Gronk is ready to play, and the Patriots have not officially acknowledged the rumors of his return.
Dr. Andrews was consulted on Gronk’s forearm surgeries but did not perform them. He was involved however, when infection set in, delaying the tight end’s return to the field. Patriots officials thought Gronk would be ready by Week 2, but people close to Gronk put his return no sooner than Week 6.
Whether or not the effect is immediate, Gronk’s return, along with wide receiver Danny Amendola, should see a boost in the Patriots’ game play. His record speaks for itself. Gronkowski has been in 43 NFL games since his start in 2010. Over the course of those games, he has caught 187 passes for 2663 yards, averaging 14.2 yards per catch, creating a total of 114 first downs. The height of his performance came in 2011, when in 16 games he caught 90 passes for 1327 yards, averaging 14.7 yards, scoring 17 touchdowns, and gaining 69 first downs. This was also the year he caught his longest reception thus far for 52 yards.
This season, the Patriots stats reflect their unexpectedly sluggish game play. Over five games, Brady has completed 111/196 passes at 56.6% for 1135 passing yards, but only averaging 6.2 yards per catch. They have seven passing touchdowns and one rushing. Brady has been sacked 11 times for a loss of 76 yards, and has three interceptions on the year. Not a bad record, but not as stellar as Patriots fans have come to expect.
Preparing for the Saints, the Patriots have to be ready for the New Orleans defense orchestrated by former Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Ryan’s departure from Dallas continues to mystify many, but his impact on the Saints defense this year has been felt by the five teams unfortunate enough to face them on the field.
New England has to keep the Saints’ dynamic offense off the field, and protect Brady in the pocket. With two of his most reliable targets returning to the lineup, Brady has a better chance of getting the ball down field and into the hands of players who have shown themselves capable of doing something positive with it. After one loss, no one in the New England camp is too worried about being excluded from playoff contention, but with Amendola and Gronk back on the field, everyone expect far more than two field goals over the course of 60 minutes of play.
Written by: Brandi Tasby