With 95 percent of the reporters covering the Patriots or the NFL buzzing around the status of tight end Rob Gronkowski, it’s no surprise that the reports tend to be all over the place.
He’s going to play, he’s not going to play, his teammates expect him to play, his “camp” doesn’t want him to play, his father doesn’t want him to play, yadda, yadda, yadda-freaking-yadda.
Here’s the reality, per a source with knowledge of the situation. Gronkowski remains week to week. He’ll be questionable for next week. He’ll remain questionable until he plays.
For now, the delay comes more from his twice-broken (in different places) and surgically infected forearm than his back.
Inevitably, Gronkowski will play. But through the various reports and counter-reports that Gronkowski will play, won’t play, whatever, there’s one group that largely has escaped mentioned — the doctors.
Though we’ve become accustomed to hearing from guys like Dr. James Andrews, doctors typically keep their mouths shut when the topic is their patients. (Federal law encourages that approach, strongly.) In this specific case, and in light Gronkowski’s history, is it all that ludicrous to think that the physicians are being even more careful about protecting Gronkowski?
Prior to 2009, it was presumed that the doctors were focused more on appeasing the team (i.e., the head coach) than advancing the best interests of the players. Now, doctors are more predisposed than ever to protect their players, also known as their patients.
In this case, the most likely explanation is the one that hasn’t been mentioned, at least not until NBC’s Scott Pioli broached the subject during Football Night in America. Patriots coach Bill Belichick won’t be listening to Gronkowski’s “camp” or his agent or his father or anyone but the player, the trainers, and the doctors.
“Bill’s never going to do something to compromise the health of a player,” Pioli later told me.
Meanwhile, and as Pioli also mentioned on the air, Belichick surely loves the fact that Gronkowski’s status has created so much confusion and uncertainty. Every week until he plays, the opponent will have to prepare for Gronkowski’s potential presence.
So ignore the noise. Belichick definitely is. And when the doctors tell Belichick that Gronkowski is ready to play, that’s when Gronkowski will play.