At least one subplot in a Sunday night showdown rife with them has fizzled.
Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski, injured last weekend against the Rams, didn’t make the trip with the team to New England and will miss his homecoming of sorts against the Patriots, the Tampa Bay Times confirmed. A CT scan earlier in the week revealed Gronk has fractured ribs.
Fox NFL Sunday’s Jay Glazer reported Sunday that Gronkowski told him he has “four cracked ribs, one broken rib and a punctured lung,” suggesting the 32-year-old could be sidelined a substantial period.
Additionally, edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul officially has been ruled out with hand/shoulder injuries, and starting cornerback Carlton Davis (abdomen/ribs) is questionable. Pierre-Paul practiced Friday after being sidelined nearly two full weeks, spawning hope he might play against the Patriots.
As a result, the Bucs have elevated tight end Codey McElroy (one career NFL catch) from the practice squad, along with cornerback Rashard Robinson. All-pro corner Richard Sherman, who signed with the Bucs on Wednesday, is expected to start the contest despite only three practices.
Gronkowski, who amassed Hall of Fame credentials (and helped the Patriots win three Super Bowls) in nine seasons in Foxborough, was listed as doubtful on Friday’s injury report. He didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday, and was spotted without pads or a helmet at Friday’s indoor workout.
Following the week’s final practice, coach Bruce Arians said Gronkowski’s availability would be a game-time decision.
Clearly farther along (in terms of conditioning and playbook astuteness) than this time last year, when he still was shaking the rust from a one-year retirement, Gronkowski mostly flourished in the Bucs’ first three games.
His 16 receptions (for 184 yards) are tied for second on the team, and his four touchdown catches lead the Bucs. The two other tight ends to appear in a game this season, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, have combined for seven receptions.
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