Rob Gronkowski does not make trip to Chicago with Patriots
CHICAGO — Tight end Rob Gronkowski did not make the trip to Chicago with the Patriots but has not yet been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Bears, a league source told the Globe.
Gronkowski was downgraded to doubtful for the game Saturday night.
Gronkowski has a back injury that was added to the Patriots injury report on Friday. He also has been dealing with an ankle injury since Week 3.
Gronkowski could make the flight separately and try to play, but because he didn’t travel with the team makes it doubtful he’ll be ready to go Sunday afternoon.
Gronkowski has started all six games for the Patriots this season. He has caught 26 of 35 passes thrown his way for 405 yards and one touchdown. Those numbers aren’t especially prolific by his high standards, but Gronkowski’s importance to the offense was evident when Tom Brady went his way in the final, critical moments of the Chiefs game last Sunday.
Three players were ruled out of Sunday’s game Saturday night. Defensive ends Geneo Grissom and John Simon and tight end Jacob Hollister.Without Hollister, and possibly Gronkowski, tight end Dwayne Allen could see a bigger role.
Gordon speeding up
In the middle of the Patriots-Chiefs game, the NBC broadcast team offered an interesting note from their pre-production meeting with Brady.
Brady told them Josh Gordon had started running full speed in practice that week.
Perhaps that had something to do with Gordon’s sharply-rising snap count — he played 81 percent of the offensive snaps against Kansas City — and in any case, it was a relief for Gordon, who’s been dealing with a hamstring injury since just before he was traded to New England.
“It was great to open up again at full strength, full speed,” Gordon said. “I’m starting to be able to do more, be a part more. Show what you can do. It’s been a process and I’ve just been trusting the strength staff and training staff here and coaches, getting me involved and keeping me safe. It’s been a great process so far.”
Gordon is still on the injury report. He said he thinks he’s gotten the trust of the Patriots coaches, and that’s why he’s getting more playing time.
“They’re seeing that I’m learning the offense a little bit better,” Gordon said. “They’re seeing that I’m figuring out what I’m supposed to do a lot better and they thought it was good enough for me to be put in the game and know what to do, so I’m grateful for that.”
Brady has remarked a few times in the past week he’s been impressed by Gordon’s ability to pick up the playbook quickly. That backs up what he’s done on the field: Brady targeted Gordon more than any other receiver against the Chiefs. Gordon caught 5 of 9 passes intended for him for 42 yards.
There were still some obvious miscues, and Gordon said he and Brady are getting used to each other, particularly on back-shoulder throws. The pair missed on two back-shoulder throws early in the Chiefs game.
“I think that comes with more experience with Tom, and knowing certain situations and certain looks,” Gordon said. “Moving forward I think we’ve got a good grasp on that right now and if the opportunity presents itself I think we can take advantage of it.”
The Patriots have yet to win a road game this season, but they also have yet to play on the road with receiver Julian Edelman, who was suspended during losses in Detroit and Jacksonville. Edelman said he’s fond of games on the road.
“I like being the villain,” Edelman said Friday. “Everyone needs a bad guy. We’ll be the bad guy.”
Edelman said he was especially excited to be playing at Soldier Field. He’s only played there once, in 2010, in a 36-7 Patriots win. It also sounded as if Bill Belichick had given the team a report on the history of the Bears stadium, which opened in 1924 and is the oldest permanent NFL stadium (the Rams play in the LA Coliseum, which is a year older, but they are only there temporarily). Edelman would’t say if that was this week or back eight years ago, but if it was back then, he has impressive recall.
“You definitely feel the specialness of whatever Chicago has, Da Bears and all that stuff. It’s a fun atmosphere to play in so you definitely look forward to that,” Edelman said. “Old Soldier, they kept the skeleton, built the new thing in it. It’s just pretty cool with the history that stadium has with the first Army-Navy game, I think was there and all that stuff. We had a huge report on it. It was, it’s going to be fun. This is why you play football, again, to play against one of the first teams in the league.”