Pats Hope Gronk Returns For Saints

Rob Gronkowski has missed the first five games of the season

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 18: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots celebrates with Tom Brady #12 against the Indianapolis Colts into the end zone for a touchdown in the first half at Gillette Stadium on November 18, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

    After one of the worst offensive performances you'll ever see from a Tom Brady-led Patriots team, now would be the ideal time for tight end Rob Gronkowski to make his season debut.

    When healthy, he's one of the league's most dynamic players, unfortunately, the same concerns that plagued Gronk coming out of college -- injuries -- have followed him to the NFL. This offseason, he underwent surgeries on his arm and back, and the recovery has kept him on the sidelines.

    But finally, some good news: According to several reports, Gronkowski will play this Sunday against the Saints. More from ESPNBoston.com:

    Dr. James Andrews is serving as an independent physician and is charged with determining whether Gronkowski is cleared to play, a source told ESPN. Andrews is considered the most accomplished orthopedic surgeon in the world, but he didn't operate on Gronkowski.

    If Gronkowski plays, it will validate the team's decision to keep him on the 53-man roster rather than placing him on the physically unable to perform list. If not, the Patriots will have wasted a roster spot because Gronkowski would have been eligible to return after missing six games if he had been placed on the PUP list.

    For an idea of how important Gronk is to the Pats' offense, consider this: He ranked first among all NFL tight ends last season in FootballOutsiders.com's efficiency metric. Better than Tony Gonzalez, better than Heath Miller, better than Jason Witten. That included 80 receptions for 790 yards and 11 touchdowns.

    Through five games this season, Brady has thrown to his tight ends a grand total of five times.

    With the high-scoring Saints next on the schedule, Brady would gladly welcome the return of one of his favorite targets.

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