- Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski has been ruled out of Sunday’s game at New England.
- Gronkowski reportedly has fractured ribs despite initial reports that X-rays were negative.
- Sunday’s game will be Tom Brady’s first appearance in New England since leaving the Patriots’ franchise.
One of the most highly anticipated regular season games in National Football League (NFL) history just got a bit less dramatic. The game in question is Sunday’s matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccanneers and New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. A visit from the defending Super Bowl champion is always a big deal but considering that the Bucs’ quarterback is Tom Brady it becomes a monumental deal. Unfortunately, the Bucs will be without Brady’s longtime running mate, tight end Rob Gronkowski. ‘Gronk’ has been ruled out of the game with fractured ribs and could miss a number of weeks as he recovers.
Gronkowski didn’t travel to Foxboro with the team for Sunday’s game due to the concern that air travel could potentially impact his injury. He suffered the rib injury during last Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams but returned to finish the game. At the time, neither Grokowski nor the team thought that the injury was as severe as it proved to be. Post game X-rays of Gronkowski’s ribs came back negative. Further MRI testing during the week, however, revealed hairline fractures that didn’t show up on the X-rays.
Gronkowski didn’t practice on Wednesday or Thursday and was limited to light stretching during Friday’s practice. After Friday’s practice, head coach Bruce Ariens said that he would be a ‘game time decision’. He had initially been listed as ‘doubtful’ on the injury report but was ruled out on Saturday morning along with linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul. Gronkowski has been extremely effective so far this season with 16 receptions for 184 yards and four touchdowns in three games. Gronk is known for his toughness and work ethic and a team source told ESPN that they had held out hope all week that he would be ready to play:
“We held out hope all week that Gronk would be ready. He’s a different breed.”
On Saturday, head coach Ariens made the curious comment that he ‘had made progress’ which would be tough to do with rib fractures in such a short time:
“He made progress but not enough.”
There is now concern he could miss additional time. On Saturday, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that he could also be out next week:
Gronkowski played nine seasons with the Patriots and was an integral part of their success. He left with 7,861 receiving yards and 79 touchdowns in the process earning three Super Bowl titles and five Pro Bowl selections. He retired in 2019 but came back last season to join Brady in Tampa Bay. He was a key component of the Bucs’ 31-9 Super Bowl win over Kansas City where he caught a pair of touchdown passes from Brady.
It isn’t really possible to replace Gronkowski–he’s what sports media types call ‘a special player’. That notwithstanding, the Bucs are in decent shape at tight end and with Gronk sidelined veterans O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate will see more action. Facing a New England team that defends the pass well (2nd in the league) but struggles against the run (24th in the league) expect to see plenty of running backs Giovani Bernard and Leonard Fournette.
Gronkowski’s injury has had minimal impact on the betting line. The Bucs opened as a -6.5 road favorite and have moved to -7 at some sportsbooks. The total on the game opened at 49.5 and there are now some books that are at 50. Despite the fact that New England is on a 42-18-2 ATS run in October games it’s difficult to make a case on them here. Tampa Bay–with or without Gronk–are just a far superior team. Simply put, the Patriots’ offense can’t trade points with the Bucs’ offense. Tampa Bay has scored 30+ points in 9 of their last 10 games while the Pats have exceeded 28 points only once in 11 games.
New England has their own injury issues, most notably running back James White who is likely done for the season. Running back Damien Harris will have to carry the rushing load for the Pats but he lacks White’s pass catching ability. There’s a big drop off to Brandon Bolden or J.J. Taylor. There’s plenty of talk that New England might seek to acquire another running back–with Marlon Mack requesting a trade from the Indianapolis Colts he’s been the subject of much of that speculation.
With or without Gronk, Pats win by double digits in a game that goes Over the total.