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Rob Gronkowski out for Patriots game vs. Buccaneers with thigh injury

Gronkowski is dealing with a thigh injury, and he will not play against Tampa Bay on Thursday night.

Carolina Panthers v New England Patriots

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is dealing with a thigh injury, and will not play tonight against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

What happened?

Gronkowski played the entire game against the Carolina Panthers in Week 4 and seemed fine. However, the four-time Pro Bowler surprisingly appeared on the Patriots' injury report on Wednesday and was listed as questionable heading into Week 5. Gronkowski met with the media on Tuesday, and he didn't appear to be in any pain.

ESPN reported that Gronkowski arrived at the Raymond James Stadium sporting a sleeve around his left thigh on Thursday. The Patriots will have to compete for their third win of the season without their star tight end.

Why does this matter?

Other than Tom Brady, Gronkowski is the best player on the Patriots. He creates matchup problems for opposing defenses. He can play in the slot, line up on the perimeter to run routes, and deliver blocks to spring running backs open.

Gronkowski has hauled in 20 passes for 318 yards and two touchdowns this season. He also leads the Patriots in receiving yards. Now, New England will have to depend on Dwayne Allen to make plays while Gronkowski nurses his left thigh injury.