FOXBOROUGH — Bill Belichick was coy when asked about the possibility of having tight end Rob Gronkowski in uniform for Sunday’s season opener at Buffalo.
Gronkowski, who had multiple surgical procedures on his broken forearm during the offseason and also had back surgery, wasn’t placed on the physically unable to perform list, and has been practicing this week, leaving open the outside chance he’ll play against the Bills.
For the record, the tight end was listed as “doubtful” — but not “out” — when the injury report was released Friday afternoon. That designation means there is approximately a 25 percent chance of the player seeing action.
But in his morning press briefing, Belichick wasn’t giving out even that much information.
“As far as every one of our players goes, we’ll do the same thing that we do every week on Friday or two days before the game: We’ll go out and practice today, and based on how things go today, and where those players are, then we’ll list them on the injury report, same as we do every week, and that’s the same for every player,” Belichick said Friday morning before practice.
So Gronkowski has a legitimate chance to play, Belichick was asked.
“I just answered that question,” he said.
So he does?
“We’ll list every player based on what their condition and situation is at the end of Friday’s practice on a Sunday game,” Belichick said. “We’ll do the same thing every week based on what we know at that point in time.”
So you haven’t decided yet?
“We haven’t practiced yet.”
Gronkowski had been listed as “limited” on the preliminary reports issued Wednesday and Thursday. Wide receiver Danny Amendola (groin), who also was listed as “limited” those days, was classified as “probable” on Friday’s report.
The only Patriot listed as “out” was offensive lineman Will Svitek (knee).
Running back Brandon Bolden (knee), wide receiver Aaron Dobson (hamstring), defensive back Nate Ebner (ankle), and defensive back Duron Harmon (hamstring) were “questionable.”
Three Bills were listed as “out”: cornerback Stephon Gilmore (wrist), kicker Dustin Hopkins (groin), and center Doug Legursky (knee). Safety Jarius Byrd (foot) is “doubtful.”
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady may or may not have his big tight end to throw to come Sunday, but signs point to him having the same offensive line in front of him, with all five starters from 2012 expected to take the field. While that might be considered a strength to an offense that generated the second-most yards and points in team history, Belichick stressed that this is a new year.
“We’ve got some veteran players, but it’s a new season for all of us,” Belichick said. “I respect what everybody has done in the past, but we’ve all got to go out there and establish whatever our level of performance is this season.
“The 2013 season gets started on Sunday, and we’ll see where everybody is at that point. Young players, veteran players, new players, old players, coaches, all of us, we’re all in the same boat. We’ll see where our team is on Sunday. I really don’t know where anybody is. We’ll find out.”
Belichick was also asked about the excitement and challenge that comes with coaching.
“This business is challenging,” he said. “There’s a thrill and an excitement if the results are good on Sunday, but sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t. You’re up against the best players, the best coaches, the best organizations in football.
“Buffalo, Doug [Marrone] is a great coach, he has an excellent staff, they have a lot of good players, they’re playing at home, it’s a huge challenge for us to go up there, and there’ll be another challenge the next week, and the next week. That’s the way it is in the NFL.
“Every team is good: Good players, good coaches, good scouts, good everything, and if you’re not at your best, then you don’t have any chance. And if you are at your best, you might run into their best.
“This isn’t like college, where you can play a couple different divisions on your schedule. Every week, you’re up against a team that has the same opportunity as you do: Same salary cap, same draft choices, the way it’s structured. Every week is a huge challenge to compete against that team. That’s what it’s all about for me.”