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Patriots Injury Report: Should the Patriots Activate Rob Gronkowski?

Looking at the pros and cons of the Patriots activating tight end Rob Gronkowski from the PUP list by Saturday's deadline.

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

In case you didn’t hear, just a day after doing individual agility drills on the practice field, Rob Gronkowski was not present at the New England Patriots practice session yesterday.

It’s not a big deal, but it is noteworthy. A big decision looms on Saturday for the Patriots – as they must either activate Rob Gronkowski from the PUP list, or place him on reserve/PUP.

Rob Gronkowski is, without question, the Patriots best skill player on offense. It has got to be a tough call to make if you are Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. And when it comes to making a tough decision, there’s no better way to break it down than to make a pros and cons chart. So here we go:

Pros of Activating Gronkowski

1. Potential to get your best skill player back several weeks earlier than if he was on the reserve/PUP list. If the Patriots stumble out of the gates, Gronkowski could be the savior, perhaps as early as week three. Every win matters in the NFL, and Gronkowski wins games.

2. There would be less pressure on the rooks. The Patriots are expected to have three rookie receivers and one rookie tight end near the top of their depth chart – Kenbrell Thompkins, Zach Sudfeld, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce. Having Gronkowski back early would help ease the transition for them, while taking off some of the pressure for them to produce immediate results.

3. Schematically, having Gronkowski around will help. I do believe that the Patriots will continue to run a lot of two tight end sets once he’s back. But if he’s held out for an extended period of time, I expect the Patriots to run a high portion of their snaps from 3-receiver sets. If Gronkowski were to come back smack in the middle of the season, it could disrupt chemistry as the Patriots scheme is certain to change.

Cons of Activating Gronkowski

1. The chance of re-injury is a huge risk. He had four offseason surgeries, including three on his broken arm. If Gronkowski comes back too soon and gets hurt again, it just won’t be worth it. The Patriots need Gronkowski to win a Super Bowl, and they need to be absolutely certain. If Gronkowski starts on PUP, it takes off a lot of the pressure for him to return.

2. Temporarily losing a roster spot. Gronkowski is likely looking at a week three return at the earliest. In today’s NFL, every roster spot is significant. So if Gronkowski comes off the PUP list Saturday, he’ll be taking a 53-man roster spot from a developmental player. If he were to start the year on PUP, the Patriots would have at least six extra weeks to manage the roster and potentially stash someone.

3. This goes hand-in-hand with the first one, but Gronkowski’s physical condition isn’t yet at its peak. If he comes back to soon, and isn’t in his best football shape, he might not perform to the level we expect. Gronkowski has looked slim in the few times we’ve seen him. If he took an extra few weeks to continue to lift weights and get in football shape, it could help himself and the team down the stretch.

See, aren’t pros and cons lists fun? What do you think: with the final cutdown on Saturday, should the Patriots activate Gronkowski or start him on the reserve/PUP list?