Patriots update: Amendola, Gronk unlikely

Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola of the New England Patriots are on the practice field, but how close are they to actually playing?

Danny Amendola, WR (groin): The last time we saw Amendola in a game was Week 1, when he left the field in the first half after sustaining further injury to the groin, yet returned in the second half for a gutsy finish. Then, he was out for Week 2, and the questions as to how long he would be absent began circling. There were various reports offering a wide range of missed time and a report from Fox Sports of Amendola seeking multiple opinions about his condition.

In essence, all are relevant. The uncertainty about his timetable reflects the true unknown status about how quickly Amendola can be expected to progress after sustaining a tear of muscle tissue in the groin area. There can be questions about when an injury to the groin warrants surgery, and the answer lies in the location and extent of the tear, along with the philosophy of the medical provider. As is the case with most things in medicine, the answers are not black and white, and there can be varying opinions.

What is known at this point is that there is no immediate plan to pursue surgery (which is not to say that he will or won’t require a procedure at some point in the future), and Amendola is undergoing conservative treatment and trying to work his way back on the field. His continued presence on the field for limited practices attests to this. During the early recovery phase, Amendola’s body needs to lay down scar tissue where the injury occurred. The challenge of balancing treatment with activity level comes in allowing enough rest for the tissue to repair itself yet maintaining enough flexibility to prevent excessive stiffness. Preserving strength of all the other core muscles is critical and maintenance of cardiovascular conditioning is essential to keeping his fitness level up. As the healing advances, the prospect of Amendola returning to competition can begin to be targeted.

Obviously, this all requires time, something not in abundance once the season is underway. However, the Patriots are generally cautious about not rushing their players back to action, which hints at more time off for Amendola. For now, consider him unlikely to play this week.

Rob Gronkowski, TE (back/forearm): Speaking of not rushing, the Patriots have been allowing Gronkowski to steadily increase his return to football readiness through limited practices. Approximately four months removed from surgery to replace the hardware in his forearm -- and just more than three months since back surgery -- he has more the look of a healthy player who is getting into football shape than one who is still ailing.

It should be noted, though, that all of the steps he is taking toward returning to football are part of the final phase of the rehab process. However, the Patriots are not going to let all that work go out the window in order to provide some immediate relief for Tom Brady. Gronkowski’s return is near, but it would be surprising if it’s this week in Tampa.