Rob Gronkowski’s New England homecoming won’t happen on Sunday night.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports Gronkowski will not travel with the Buccaneers and will be held out versus the Patriots, per a source. The team later announced the news.
The Buccaneers tight end was declared doubtful with a rib injury on the Bucs’ official injury report Friday.
While initial X-rays showed no fractures, follow-up tests revealed two hairline fractures on Gronkowski’s ribs, as source tells Rapoport. The diagnosis could extend Gronkowski’s absence into next week as well, according to Rapoport.
Gronkowski sustained the rib injury early in the third quarter of last week’s road loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The veteran exited before returning late in the quarter, finishing the game with four catches for 55 yards.
This is the first game Gronkowski will miss since coming out of retirement to play in Tampa Bay ahead of the 2020 season, making his rib injury an untimely development ahead of he and Brady’s return to New England. The 32-year-old got off to a hot start in 2021 with 16 receptions for 184 yards and four touchdowns in the first three games.
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady will still have great options at tight end despite Gronkowski’s absence. Cameron Brate (five receptions, 43 yards) and O.J. Howard (2/32) are now poised to get more opportunities in the Bucs’ high-powered offense which generates plenty of attention with a stellar receiving corps.