As the Patriots try to run their winning streak to seven, they won’t have 87, again.
Per multiple reports, tight end Rob Gronkowski won’t play on Sunday. It will be the third game in four weeks missed due to lingering ankle and back issues. It was the back injury that coincided with Gronkowski actually missing games; he has had multiple back surgeries during his football career, dating back to his final season in college.
The ongoing injury issue calls into question the wisdom (and fairness) of Gronkowski having his below-market contract rectified not by a bump in base salary, but by an incentive package. Beyond losing $62,500 for each game during which he isn’t on the active roster, Gronkowski will now have a very hard time hitting any of the four categories that would pay him $1.1 million each, with a maximum additional payment of $3.3 million. His best chance at this point will be to earn $1.1 million for participating in 80 percent of the offensive snaps. After Sunday, however, he will have played in only 70 percent of the team’s 2018 games.
While there’s currently no reason to believe the absence will extend beyond the team’s Week 11 bye (then again, there’s currently no reason to think it won’t), the situation puts a dark cloud over what could be Gronkowski’s final year in New England, if not his final year in the NFL.
UPDATE 3:39 p.m. ET: Despite those reports, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com reports that Gronkowski is traveling to Tennessee with his teammates. A final decision about his availability will be made on Sunday.