A season ago, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez made the Patriots tight ends one of the best units in the NFL. Now, with Hernandez facing murder charges and Gronkowski rehabbing his back, the Patriots have one of the worst tight end groups in the league, comprised primarily of no-name players.
Fortunately for the Patriots, it looks like they'll be getting Gronkowski back in due time, although they're still not sure exactly when that will be.
Ed Werder of ESPN reported that the people working with Gronkowski have described him as being in good spirits, looking good and making progress.
Even with the positive report, it's not necessarily likely that Gronkowski will be ready for the Patriots regular season opener September 8, in Buffalo. It does, however, mean the Patriots should be able to get him back before the season is too far along.
The first big challenge for the Patriots comes in week 4 against the Atlanta Falcons. Prior to that game, the Patriots' biggest concern will be in week 3 against the Buccaneers, but none of the first three games should be too difficult for a Tom Brady-led team to handle. The Falcons, on the other hand, will be favorites to make a deep playoff run, and they would be a handful on the best of days for any team in the league. It's that week 4 matchup that the Patriots are most concerned with having Gronkowski on the field for, and with positive reports coming in, that seems entirely possible.