A big part of New England's success last season was due to the emergence the tight ends. Unlike a year ago, however, both Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski have battled injuries, the latter suffering a broken arm before Thanksgiving. Originally, the hope was that he'd be healthy enough to return before the end of the season but with Week 17 upon us, time has almost run out.
Coach Bill Belichick updated Gronkowski's status on Wednesday.
"We'll see how he is," Belichick said via ESPNBoston.com. "He did more last week than the week before and we'll see where he's at today and tomorrow when we go out there (to practice), we'll see what he can do. We'll take it day-to-day, we'll make decisions day-to-day based on where he's at. He's moving along, (he's) not ready yet. We'll take it day-to-day and see how it goes."
A year ago, Gronkowski suffered a high-ankle sprain in the AFC Championship game and was limited in the Super Bowl. The hope, obviously, is that he returns to the field as close to healthy as possible. Belichick was asked if it was important to get Gronk snaps in the regular-season finale against the Dolphins to help knock the rust of inactivity off.
"I think those are decisions really that are made medically," Belichick said. "If the players are able to play, then we play them. If they're not, then we don't. It's the same for every player, we treat them all the same. There's nothing more important than the player's health and safety, so when they're cleared to play, then we make playing decisions.
"If they're not cleared to play, then there's no decision to make," Belichick continued. "And I don't think that's a decision that a coach makes or influences, those are medical decisions if it's a medical situation. Once it's a competitive decision then that's a coaching decision. If it's a medical decision, then it's made by medical people."
The Pats have shown that they can run their offense without Gronkowski but it's a lot easier when he's on the field.