FOXBOROUGH — The agent for tight end Rob Gronkowski said Thursday he doesn’t understand why his client’s injury status has gotten so much attention, before teasing that Gronkowski will “be back soon, maybe even this weekend.”
While appearing on a Miami radio show, Drew Rosenhaus claimed Gronkowski, who has participated in every practice since Sept. 2 but has yet to appear in a game, is no different than any other player recovering from an injury.
“I don’t understand why this story has gotten so much traction,” Rosenhaus said. “There are dozens of players around the NFL who aren’t playing because they are injured and coming back from surgery. In Rob’s case, this is really straightforward — up to this point he hasn’t been cleared to play in a game. He has not been cleared by Dr. [James] Andrews, who is the supervising doctor.”
It was revealing that Rosenhaus said the Florida-based Andrews is the supervising doctor, and not Patriots team physician Thomas Gill, or even Dr. Jesse Jupiter, the Massachusetts General Hospital specialist who performed the fourth and most recent surgery on Gronkowski’s left forearm.
Andrews was brought into the case by Gronkowski, not the Patriots.
“There’s a huge difference between being cleared to practice and being cleared to play in a game. I’ve had great dialogue with coach [Bill] Belichick and the Patriots’ medical staff, and Rob and his family,” Rosenhaus said. “Everybody’s on the same page, except it’s gotten a lot of play in the media and all these unsubstantiated sources.
“All I can tell you is it’s really straightforward. When Rob is cleared, he’ll play. It shouldn’t be a big surprise to people that the guy has a very cautious approach right now, because he had four operations on that forearm and he had a back operation.”
One league source said Gronkowski’s father, Gordon, has been heavily influencing his son’s decision-making, as he does in many situations.
Gronkowski on Thursday mostly said the same thing he’s said for well over a month: He’s taking things day by day.
“I’m just improving every week. That’s all. Like I said, nothing has changed,” he said. “Nothing has changed the whole time. The thing that has changed, actually, is I’m improving every week.”
Asked when he gets evaluated for potential game clearance, Gronkowski responded, “Gotta ask coach on that one. He’ll know.”
There was one thing Gronkowski said Thursday that raised the eyebrows a bit. As to whether he would be playing now if the decision were solely up to him, he didn’t say yes.
“Ah, I wouldn’t say that because, I mean, you’ve got to go through the process of asking the doctors and everything, so I’m not just going to make a decision by myself. That’s why you have a whole organization, to work together,” Gronkowski said.
He affirmed that he is frustrated over not playing, and at getting the same questions week after week.
“Obviously, I want to be out there,” Gronkowski said. “I love the game of football, I love playing, I love playing the game. It’s great being out there with my teammates, getting on the same page, getting the chemistry down, and we’ll see.”
Also of note: The open locker room period on Thursday began just as players were streaming in after practice, and Gronkowski had a black practice jersey stretched over his shell (soft pads). Belichick awards black jerseys after wins to signify practice players of the week, players who did not play or played little in the game but had a big part in getting the team ready.
At the end of his interview, Rosenhaus said, “Quite frankly, it’s not a huge upset that up to this point he hasn’t been cleared to play in a game. We anticipated this. Hopefully, he’ll be back soon, maybe even this weekend, but there’s no way to know until the end of the week when his doctors make that determination.”
The Patriots will be the first team at which Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith gets a second look, and defensive end Rob Ninkovich believes it will be key to make Smith’s decisions as difficult as possible.
“It comes down to us doing our job, knowing what your responsibility is before the ball is snapped, playing fast,” Ninkovich said. “The read option is to make them read what is going on, and the faster you can make that read a hard decision, that’s when things go your way as a defensive player.”
Smith passed for 214 yards and ran for 17 in the Patriots’ 13-10 Week 2 win at Gillette Stadium. The rookie out of West Virginia is completing 59.5 percent of his passes on the season, with seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He’s been sacked 21 times.
Smith is averaging 5.2 yards per rush, but has carried only 22 times.
“As the season’s progressed, they’ve become more comfortable with the things they’re doing,” said Ninkovich. “That seems to happen with a team that likes to run that type of offense, with the option, how the quarterback is reading the defenses. The more reps you get at it, the better you get at the whole operation.”
Guard Dan Connolly (concussion) was back at practice on Thursday, but Aqib Talib (hip), Danny Amendola (concussion/groin), Tommy Kelly (knee), and Leon Washington (ankle) once again did not participate. That none of the four were able to practice puts their availability for Sunday in doubt. Connolly was one of nine Patriots players listed as limited, as was Marcus Cannon, who was added to Thursday’s report with a shoulder injury. For the Jets, wide receiver Santonio Holmes (foot/hamstring) missed practice again, and coach Rex Ryan said it “doesn’t look good” for his availability against the Patriots . . . Running back Shane Vereen had the hard cast removed from his left wrist, which he broke in the Week 1 win in Buffalo. Vereen was placed on injured reserve/designated to return, meaning he must miss eight weeks, but he will be eligible to return after the Patriots’ bye in Week 10.