The New England Patriots finally received some good news on the injury front with Rob Gronkowski expected to suit up for Sunday's game against the Houston Texans, according to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. Gronkowski returned to practice on Thursday wearing a knee brace, and showed enough to the coaching staff to travel with the team to Houston.
Gronkowski suffered a knee sprain and bone bruise against the Denver Broncos in Week 12. He was carted off the field immediately after the hit, which looked devastating upon contact, but further testing revealed that the damage was less severe than initially expected. Adam Schefter reported that Gronkowski's return to the field would be based on his ability to manage the pain from the injury, and his status was described as "week-to-week."
Gronk must be a fast healer and/or have a high pain tolerance because he missed only one game, last Sunday's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. His absence was significant, though, as Tom Brady played his worst game of the season and really struggled to connect with his receivers downfield.
The All-Pro tight end is having another strong season in New England. Gronkowski leads tight ends in receiving yards (931) and yards per catch (16.3), and ranks second in receiving touchdowns (nine).
Injuries have challenged the Patriots offense throughout the season. In addition to Gronkowski, wide receiver Julian Edelman and running back Dion Lewis were both sidelined for the loss to the Eagles. The Patriots had the opportunity to clinch the AFC East and a playoff bid with a win over Philadelphia. Instead, they find themselves in third place in the AFC playoff standings, with the Cincinnati Bengals and the Broncos currently ahead of the Patriots in the AFC standings.
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