Rob Gronkowski: Still 'day-to-day'

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Amid reports that the New England Patriots are optimistic that Rob Gronkowski will make his season debut Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, the tight end reinforced on Thursday that his status remains day-to-day.

"It's basically nothing new," he told reporters. "I mean, I'm just working hard every week, working hard out at practice, and nothing's changed, we're day by day, like we've been from the very beginning."

Asked what he and doctors need to see in order to know he is ready to return to the field, Gronkowski replied, "[I'm] really just taking it each day at a time and just trying to improve each day at a time. And that's all."

On Wednesday, quarterback Tom Brady said that he's not riding the emotional roller coaster attached to speculating on Gronkowski's return date.

"We've kind of talked about it a lot the last five weeks," Brady said. "If he's there, he's there. If he's not, he's not. We're going to try to go win anyway," he said.

Brady's comments came on the heels of remarks by coach Bill Belichick, who reiterated that Gronkowski's status is day-to-day but did not elaborate.

Gronkowski, as has been the case throughout the regular season, was on the practice field Thursday morning.

"I'm just doing whatever the coach asks me to do, out at the practice field with my teammates, [whatever] they ask me to do, just to help the team out to my max ability," Gronkowski said.

The Patriots' offense has struggled throughout the early part of the season, and it was never more apparent than during a 13-6 loss in Week 5 to the Cincinnati Bengals. Perhaps no areas have been affected in the absence of Gronkowski more than the Patriots' third-down and red zone offenses, as the team ranks 17th and 31st, respectively, in those categories, a year after leading the league in both.

The team has also dealt with injuries to wide receiver Danny Amendola and top running backs Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley. Ridley missed the Bengals game because of a knee issue, and Vereen (wrist) remains on the injured reserve list with the designation to return.

A return from Gronkowski on Sunday would be a boon to the offense as the Patriots (4-1) prepare to host the high-powered Saints (5-0), and whether it's this week or a future date, the team's top tight end is eagerly anticipating his season debut.

"It's going to be a great feeling, obviously," Gronkowski said of his eventual return. "[I've] just been working hard towards that goal and working hard every day to achieve that. It's going to be exciting, and when it happens, it's going to be awesome."