FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The presence of recovering tight end Rob Gronkowski was notable at Patriots practice on Monday, serving as a reminder of the significant decision ahead for the team.
By 6 p.m. ET on Saturday, the Patriots must choose whether to place Gronkowski on the active 53-man roster or the reserve/physically unable to perform list. If it’s the reserve/PUP option, which would mean Gronkowski doesn't count against the 53-man roster and would open up a spot for another player, Gronkowski wouldn’t be allowed to practice or play in a game until after the sixth week of the regular season.
While it’s not realistic to think Gronkowski would be ready for the season-opener on Sept. 8, as previously reported by ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, a late September return might not be that far off the mark.
Gronkowski’s presence Monday seems to reflect that momentum is building for that possibility.
Still, while the rest of the team was in full pads, Gronkowski was in shorts and a T-shirt. And while most of the players were working on the team’s upper two practice fields, Gronkowski was on the lower field, going through agility drills with a member of the strength and conditioning staff. So he wasn’t participating in individual drills with teammates as much as he was continuing with his rehabilitation.
It’s quite possible that this is the type of work Gronkowski has been doing in recent weeks, but the difference Monday was that it came in view of media members who have a limited viewing time at practice.
That sneak peak previewed the significant decision ahead for the team with Gronkowski.