Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Gronkowski on right track at right time for Patriots


Rob Gronkowski is on his way back. That's good news for the New England Patriots.

Gronkowski, the best tight end in the NFL, returned to action for the first time since November 18 last Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. While mildly favoring his used-to-be-broken forearm, Gronkowski took a third of New England's offensive snaps, catching two passes, one for a touchdown, while being targeted four times.

The timeline has been as good as can be for Gronkowski. He was able to get in a little refresher course just before the playoffs, and since the Patriots earned a first-round bye, he'll have an extra week to get comfortable for a potential Super Bowl run. (photo: WBUR, Flickr)

"I thought that all in all it was a fairly productive day and also an opportunity for him to get out there and get his legs back and get into a game and hear the communication and the tempo and the pace and all the different things that happen when you haven’t played in over a month,"Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Monday of Gronk's work against Miami.

"Hopefully we’ll be able to build off that this week and next week and have him ready to get back into his role hopefully in the first playoff game."

Gronkowski acquired the injury while blocking on a meaningless extra point at the end of the Patriots' blowout of the Indianapolis Colts. He didn't see time on special teams Sunday, for obvious reasons.

The third-year tight end's return adds strength upon strength for the Patriots. Tom Brady gets his best and biggest red zone target back, and that's with New England already boasting the NFL's best red zone offense.

The Patriots can also now go back to exploiting the very flexible Aaron Hernandez's attributes, taking advantage of his versatility while Gronkowski settles into a more traditional tight end role.

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