FOXBOROUGH — Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski took a big step toward his much-anticipated return to game action when his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told several media outlets on Friday that his client has been cleared by all doctors to play Sunday against the Jets.
But on the Patriots’ official injury report, released Friday afternoon, Gronkowski was listed as questionable for Sunday, as he has since Week 3.
At his morning press conference, held just after news of Rosenhaus’s declaration, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said only that the team would list its injuries “at the end of the day, like we always do on Friday.”
Doctors’ clearance, most notably from James Andrews, was believed to be the last hurdle for the 24-year-old to clear on his long road back from multiple arm surgeries, as well as back surgery.
Andrews was brought in recently as a consulting doctor, and Rosenhaus said on a Miami radio station this week that Gronkowski would not play until he was cleared by the renowned Florida-based orthopedist. During that radio interview, Rosenhaus hinted that Gronkowski might finally be ready to play, saying, “Hopefully he’ll be back soon, maybe even this weekend.” But there have been several premature reports of Gronkowski’s return in recent weeks.
Gronkowski declined to talk to reporters in the locker room on Friday, claiming the Patriots’ media relations staff would not allow him to because he spoke briefly on Thursday.
League rules allow teams to designate two players required to be available to media only once a week, but there is no rule a player cannot talk more than once.
Gronkowski has practiced every day since Sept. 2, when the Patriots began practicing for their opener. He was awarded a black practice jersey this week as a practice player of the week in the days leading up to the Patriots’ victory over New Orleans.
Typically, the black jerseys are given to players who either do not play on game day or play sparingly, as a means of acknowledging their contributions.
Gronkowski would be a much-needed addition to the offense, particularly in the red zone.
Through six games, New England has just nine touchdowns in 22 trips inside the 20-yard line, a 40.9 success rate that ranks them 30th in the NFL. During his career, 29 of Gronkowski’s 38 receiving touchdowns have come inside the red zone. He also is a tremendous blocker in the run game, something New England has been lacking this season.
Since breaking his left forearm against the Colts last Nov. 18, Gronkowski has undergone four surgeries on his arm: the first, on Nov. 19, was to repair the break with a metal plate; the second, on Jan. 14, was when he rebroke the bone in the playoffs against Houston; the third, in late February, was to clean out an infection; and the fourth, on May 20, was to check that the infection had cleared and to replace the metal plate.
The fourth surgery was performed by Dr. Jesse Jupiter of Massachusetts General Hospital; the previous procedures were done by Patriots team physician Thomas Gill.
When Gronkowski underwent his discectomy in June, it was done by Dr. Robert Watkins in Los Angeles.