FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Over the past two days, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski increased his practice participation to a level at which he would play during a normal week, according to a source familiar with how the team’s practice repetitions were divided.
This strengthens the possibility that he could suit up in the regular-season finale Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, the source said. One possibility to keep in mind, however, is if coach Bill Belichick alters his approach with personnel based on playoff interests, such as limiting the action of some players so they’re at their best whenever the Patriots do play in the playoffs.
Gronkowski broke his forearm late in the Patriots' win against the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 18 and has missed the team’s past five games. He was listed as having limited practice participation on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and is one of 20 Patriots players listed as questionable for Sunday.
After returning to practice Dec. 14, he has been listed as questionable for each of the past two games (not counting this week) and was inactive for both.
When asked Wednesday whether he thought it was important for Gronkowski to get snaps Sunday in order to prepare him for the playoffs, Belichick said any decision on his playing will be made strictly for medical reasons. He reiterated Friday that the tight end’s status remains a medical decision.
"When the doctors clear me, when the training staff clears me, when I'm medically ready to play and they let me play, I'm sure that's when I'll be out there," Gronkowski said Wednesday in his first public comments since the injury.
The Patriots should know before they take the field (4:25 p.m. start) what kind of shot they’ll have at earning a first-round bye. The Houston Texans face the Indianapolis Colts at 1 p.m. If Houston loses that game, New England would grab a top-two seed and a bye with a win over Miami. The Patriots could also earn a bye with a win and a loss by the Denver Broncos, who host the Kansas City Chiefs at 4:25 p.m.