METAIRIE, La. -- The "will he or won't he?" saga with New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski certainly doesn't make it easier for the New Orleans Saints defense to game plan for Sunday's upcoming matchup at New England. But coach Sean Payton has insisted this week that the Saints will be prepared whether or not Gronkowski returns this week from lingering back and forearm injuries.
"I think you go through the process as if he is playing," said Payton, who said the Saints' scout team has replicated Gronkowski this week in practice. "You prepare for what they do and what they have done, and you understand a player of his caliber, it's important to know where he's at on the field with each play.
"And then if in the event he's not, then you continue with your plan. It's not like you have two entirely different game plans."
Gronkowski is officially listed as questionable for Sunday's game after practicing on a limited basis all week. But he reportedly hadn't been cleared to play as of Friday by the doctors who performed his offseason surgeries.