It’s complicated. It often is.
Those are the primary thoughts when it comes to Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and his murky status.
Let’s try to sort through some of the dynamics in play:
Role of the “circle.” As ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported in the wake of a Boston Herald report, this “goes beyond the Patriots' decision and to Gronkowski's circle of family, friends and advisers.” Gronkowski has undergone five surgeries since last November, so one can empathize with those close to the tight end who might believe a return Sunday night is too soon. We know from Gronkowski’s three-plus seasons with the Patriots, which started with Gronkowski celebrating on the stage at the NFL draft with his family and friends and continued with the most recent book he wrote with his father and brothers, that Gronkowski’s family and inner "circle” plays a big role in his life. It seems fair to say the inner "circle” has more influence with Gronkowski than the standard player.
Dynamic of trust with medical decisions. It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that the viewpoint of Gronkowski’s inner "circle" has been affected by the last time Gronkowski was cleared to play by the team’s medical staff, in the 2012 AFC divisional round of the playoffs. That’s when Gronkowski re-broke the forearm on his seventh play. When something like that happens, even if it’s considered a freak accident and/or bad luck, one could understand how a trust might be affected.
Patriots' viewpoint. Would the team pressure Gronkowski to return to the field? Surely every team wants to see a return on its investment and the Patriots are obviously a better team with Gronkowski on the field. But they also have a long-term interest, which team president Jonathan Kraft pointed out in his weekly interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub on Sept. 22. “At the end of the day, we care about the players’ long-term health and in the case of guys like Danny [Amendola] and Rob, who are signed to this team for a long time, it’s not about this week and next week. It’s about the next 4-5 years and we collectively want to make the right decision.”
Player makes the final call. The unanswered question, from this viewpoint, is what does Gronkowski think? It’s one thing if his inner "circle” doesn’t want him to play and he agrees. It’s another thing if he feels ready, but those close to him are urging him to hold off. Knowing how Gronkowski feels would add important context to this situation. If he doesn’t want to play, it would be surprising to me if he’s on the field Sunday night.