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While addressing the media Wednesday morning, Bill Belichick announced that Rob Gronkowski will not begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list, and that he has been cleared to play.
The announcement comes as a bit of a shock, as Gronkowski had surgery to repair his right ACL on January 9th.
The Patriot’s tight end said last week that he plans to play the whole season. And while today is a step in that direction, staying healthy remains the ultimate obstacle.
Gronkowski battled injuries during his time at the University of Arizona, and hasn’t been fully healthy for an extended period since the 2011 playoffs.
While it’s a relief that Gronk looks to be near full-strength entering camp, the Patriots should tread with caution.Keeping their All-Pro tight end upright for the entire season must be the ultimate goal. After all, the Patriots would much rather have Gronkowski healthy in January than they would in September.
Without another receiving threat at tight end, Gronkowski is the most valuable player on the roster not named Brady or Revis. Last season, Gronk ranked first in the NFL in receiving yards-per-game among tight ends. During the seven games in which he appeared, the Patriots offense looks like a completely different unit than the one we saw struggle to score 16 points against the Broncos in January.
Patriot fans will undoubtedly be nervous any time they see Gronkowski hit the ground this season. The tight end has a long injury history, and while you certainly can’t blame his knee injury on the past, the stigma is still there.
The defense is much improved going into camp, and the offense should move forward as well. However, it’s hard to see this team securing Lombardi Trophy number 4 without number 87.