Rob Gronkowski will not be on hand to help Tom Brady in their matchup against Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Saturday that Gronkowski will not travel to New England, and he will miss the “Sunday Night Football” matchup against the Patriots.
Bucs’ TE Rob Gronkowski is not making the trip to New England today due to his rib injury and he will be out Sunday night vs. New England, per sources.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 2, 2021
Gronkowksi has been off to a fast start this season as he’s hauled in 16 passes for 184 yards with four touchdowns. He opened the 2021 campaign with back-to-back games with two touchdown receptions.
While all eyes will be on the return of Brady to New England, it would also have marked the first time Gronkowski has returned to face off against his old team. He spent the first nine seasons of his career under Belichick. He caught 521 passes with 79 touchdowns and 7,861 yards.
The Buccaneers have plenty of depth at tight end to be able to replace Gronkowski. O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate have both been standout receiving options in the past, though they’ve only combined for seven receptions for 75 yards this season.
Howard started his career with two consecutive campaigns of at least five receiving touchdowns and three straight seasons with at least 400 receiving yards. Brate had back-to-back 500-yard receiving seasons in 2016 and 2017 in Tampa Bay. Both saw their usage in the passing game diminish with Gronkowski joining Brady last season.
In his first season in Tampa Bay, Gronkowski caught 45 passes for 623 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Patriots so far have been strong defending against tight ends. They are tied for an NFL-low four receptions and 27 receiving yards allowed to tight ends through the first three games of the season. Overall, New England has allowed the second-fewest passing yards to opponents this season at just 479. There has only been three passing touchdowns allowed by New England, while its defense has picked off five passes.