During Monday's blitz of NFL news we passed along a report that "it's not realistic" to expect Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski on the field in Week 1 of the 2013 season. So what's Gronk's target return date? Sounds like it might be Week 3 against the Buccaneers.
That's what Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald reports Tuesday, also noting that Gronkowski is "doing very well in his rehabilitation." Gronkowski's spent the offseason under the knife, having multiple surgeries on both his back and his forearm done since the Patriots were dispatched by the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game.
A source tells Guregian that Gronk is "right on schedule" to return in the middle of mid-September and that Gronk's recovering well enough that he could play in Week 1 of the season against the Bills if needed.
However, it's pretty unlikely that the tight end plays that early. The Patriots apparently don't -- and shouldn't, as I pointed out in Sorting the Sunday Pile -- have any interest in trying to rush their start tight end back on the field.
So this brings into question the matter of keeping Gronk on the Physically Unable to Perform list. If he's on the PUP list to start the season, the tight end will miss at a minimum the first six games of the season. If he's not he can play whenever he likes.
That might limit the Patriots ability to keep an additional player on the roster for six games (ahem, Tim Tebow) but it would be well worth it, as getting Gronk back healthy early in the season will make a world of difference for this offense.
Given everything he has been through this offseason, Week 3 or even Week 4 should be considered a victory for the Pats.