FOXBOROUGH — In general, Bill Belichick’s answer to any question pertaining to Rob Gronkowski’s health status is a brief, “He’s day to day.”
But during his conference call Monday morning, Belichick gave a bit of an explanation of the process of evaluating players from a medical and football standpoint, and what goes into deciding that a player is fit to be in uniform.
“I would say there are a lot of things that go into it, a combination obviously of medical clearance and making up the active roster for the 46 guys,” he said. “Each week, we go through the process with all of the players and do what we feel like is best for the team. Obviously medical considerations are a big part of it, so we’ll do that with every player.”
Specific to Gronkowski, Belichick indicated it’s not rare for a player to be able to take part in on-field work Wednesday through Friday but still not be ready to contribute Sunday.
Gauging a player’s fitness or readiness, “That’s what practice is for, part of it,” Belichick said. “But ultimately the players have to be cleared medically before we can put them in the game. There are a lot of players that practice that aren’t ready to play yet, but they’re able to participate in practice. That’s pretty common.”
It isn’t as common for the Patriots to have a player take part in practice for as long as Gronkowski has — the tight end has taken part every day since Sept. 2 — without getting into a game. But as Gronkowski has said, ad nauseum, that he is taking things day by day.
Chandler Jones said teammate Rob Ninkovich tipped him off to the possibility that Saints quarterback Drew Brees might run a naked bootleg on third and 7 just after the two-minute warning in the Patriots’ 30-27 win Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
Sure enough, that’s what Brees tried, and Jones was ready for him, dropping Brees for a 5-yard loss.
Monday, Ninkovich said he did indeed talk to Jones.
“I’m happy he gave me some credit on that,” Ninkovich said, smiling. “I said, ‘Chan, alert, something coming to your side,’ because they probably would like to do that right about now, that time of the game, a naked boot with a quarterback seems like a good play.
“I’m happy he gave me the semi-credit for him tackling [Brees]. We talk a lot during the game, we communicate back and forth on what we think’s going to happen, just so we’re aware.”
Jones credited Ninkovich’s film study for his proper diagnosis, especially that the play would be going to Jones’s side of the field, not his own.
“Late in the game, you see where the ball’s at on the field, they’re not going to do that to the short side of the field, they’re going to do something to the wide side, so I just gave him a heads- up,” Ninkovich said.
The Saints had to punt the ball, giving quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots one last chance to come back — which they did.
Not often a player with one-liners when cameras are present, Ninkovich had a couple during his chat session.
Asked about the defensive effort of the Patriots on New Orleans star tight end Jimmy Graham, holding him without a catch, Ninkovich quipped, “To hold him with no catches, I’m sure fantasy guys were bummed that he got no points for them,” before tipping his cap to teammate Aqib Talib, who drew the assignment on Graham before leaving the game in the third quarter with a hip injury.
When Ninkovich brought up New England’s next game, on the road against the Jets, he said, “Always fun to play in New York — good atmosphere, lovely fans, and they enjoy our company.”
New England’s last-second victory over the Saints provided yet another home-field October win. Since 2003, the Patriots are 21-1 at Gillette Stadium in October, with the loss coming to the Chargers in 2005 . . . Brady’s touchdown pass to Kenbrell Thompkins was the 342d of his career, tying him with Fran Tarkenton for fourth place all time. Dan Marino is in third place, with 420 . . . After his second-half sack, Jones reprised the Pee-Wee Herman “Tequila” celebration dance he first used last season against Tampa Bay in London. This time, the comedian noticed, sending Jones a tweet that read, “Lovin’ your sack dance, dude!”