Rob Gronkowski is likely a Week 1 scratch for the New England Patriots. A source told ESPN's Adam Schefter that it is "not realistic" to expect the tight end to be ready for the season opener against the Buffalo Bills as he recovers from offseason back surgery.
NFL.com's Albert Breer added that the news is little surprise, with late September regarded as the accepted timetable for return. Gronkowski reportedly still needs to add strength and, according to Breer, the Patriots may face a tough decision whether or not to put the tight end on the regular season physically unable to perform list, which would force him to sit for the first six games of the season.
Last we heard from Schefter, Gronkowski was recovering well from surgery, with the regular season PUP list looking like an unlikely fate. That report stood out in contrast to another report by the Boston Globe suggesting that Gronkowski could likely be headed for the PUP list. At the moment, the situation is murky.
Rushing Gronkowski back too soon from injury could have consequences, but with Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez gone, the Patriots don't have many more reliable pass catchers on the roster. In just 11 games last season, Gronkowski caught 55 passes for 790 yards and 11 touchdowns.