NFL roundup: Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola may return, Christian Ponder out

Jared Wickerham

The status of several injured players for Week 4 was the story on Friday, including news on a pair of Tom Brady's favorite targets.

After struggling to find a connection with his receivers the last two weeks, Tom Brady may have a more familiar face to throw to on Sunday with tight end Rob Gronkowski expected to play, according to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe.

Gronkowski missed the first three games of the season following offseason surgeries on his forearm and back. He's been a limited participant in practice the last few weeks and is officially listed as questionable for Sunday's game. When New England decided to activate Gronkowski from the physically unable to perform list, many speculated he could return by Week 4.

The Patriots could also have Danny Amendola in the fold. He's also expected to play after missing the last two games due to a groin injury. He caught 10 passes in the season opener. If Gronkowski and Amendola do return, it could be a major and much-needed boost for the Patriots' passing attack. Alec Shane of Pats Pulpit wrote that Gronkowski's potential return is coming at a great time.

Christian Ponder out, Matt Cassel to start

A rib injury will keep Christian Ponder out of the lineup against the Steelers in London on Sunday. Instead, Matt Cassel will be under center for the Vikings. Ponder suffered a fractured rib last week and the location of the injury causes significant risk. The fractured rib is close to Ponder's heart, so the team made the decision to hold him out for precautionary reasons.

Ponder has thrown two touchdowns and five interceptions this season, while averaging 6.9 yards per attempt. Minnesota is 0-3, not exactly a soft landing for Cassel. Via the Daily Norseman:

Cassel, who is replacing an injured Christian Ponder (ribs), will try to steer the Vikings towards their first win of the season, and comes into a situation that few expected a month ago. The Vikings are 0-3 and on the verge of their season imploding, if it already hasn't. With issues at QB, offensive line, and all over the defense, the Vikings have stumbled badly out of the gate, and they really need a spark.

Will Cassel provide that? It remains to be seen. This is the reason Cassel was signed in the off season.

Ahmad Bradshaw out, Trent Richardson to carry the load

The Colts eased Trent Richardson in during his Indianapolis debut last week. They may not have that option this week with Ahmad Bradshaw out with a neck injury. Bradshaw missed practice this week and was officially declared out on Friday. He suffered the injury against San Francisco, a game in which he ran for 95 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.

Richardson carried 13 times for 35 yards last week and will play an extended role this week. Jacksonville doesn't have a great run defense and Brad Wells wrote that Sunday's game is a big opportunity for the former Brown:

With Bradshaw sidelined, newly acquired running back Trent Richardson will have even more carries on Sunday. This is a big opportunity for Richardson. His yards-per-carry are low, and even though our own Matt Grecco thinks the stat doesn't mean much (and I agree with him), it does mean something to Richardson's critics. One of them being Jim Brown.

The Jaguars have one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. If Richardson cannot run all over the Jags, the label of "ordinary" will continue to stick.

Josh Freeman: 'Something has to change'

Josh Freeman was benched in favor of Mike Glennon earlier this week and is now open to a trade from Tampa Bay. Freeman spoke to Josina Anderson of ESPN and said there was no question moving on from the Bucs would be the best thing.

"Whatever happens next I'm moving on," Freeman told Anderson. "I'm going to be excited to go out and make the most of any situation."

Asked if he wanted to be traded, Freeman said: "Bottom line is, if you want things to change, something has got to change. At the end of the day, yes. I think that moving forward that might be, that is going to be probably the best option."

The Bucs are reportedly searching for trade partners, with the Minnesota Vikings possibly interested. If Freeman stays on the roster, the Bucs could decide to deactivate him on game day and instead go with Dan Orlovsky as the backup quarterback.

More from SB Nation NFL:

Bois: Let's bring Brian Hoyer down a peg | Breaking Madden

Week 4 picks: Can the Chiefs, Bears stay perfect? | Picks against the spread

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The Notebook: Trouble with Chip's system

NFL power rankings: Only 7 undefeated teams left

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