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New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, recovering after a series of surgeries on his fractured forearm and ailing back, still has not been cleared to play by Dr. James Andrews, according to ESPN and media reports. Moreover, there was less optimism Friday that he will play Sunday against the New Orleans Saints than there was earlier in the week.
Andrews is serving as an independent physician charged by the team and player with determining whether Gronkowski is cleared to play. Andrews is considered the most accomplished orthopedic surgeon in the world, but he didn’t operate on Gronkowski.
Gronkowski also still has not been cleared by Dr. Jesse Jupiter, who performed the latest forearm surgery on Gronkowski, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
On Thursday, Gronkowski said his status remained day-to-day. And on the Patriots’ injury report Thursday, Gronkowski was listed as having participated on a limited basis. He has been listed with that designation since Week 1 and has not played since reinjuring his wrist in an AFC divisional playoff game against the Houston Texans in January.
“It’s basically nothing new,” Gronkowski told reporters. “I mean, I’m just working hard every week, working hard out at practice, and nothing’s changed, we’re day by day, like we’ve been from the very beginning.”
Asked what he and doctors need to see to know that he is ready to return to the field, Gronkowski replied, “[I’m] really just taking it each day at a time and just trying to improve each day at a time. And that’s all.”
On Wednesday, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said that he’s not riding the emotional roller coaster attached to speculating on Gronkowski’s return date.
“We’ve kind of talked about it a lot the last five weeks,” Brady said. “If he’s there, he’s there. If he’s not, he’s not. We’re going to try to go win anyway.”
Brady’s comments came on the heels of remarks by coach Bill Belichick, who repeated that Gronkowski’s status is day-to-day without elaborating.
The Patriots’ offense has struggled throughout the early part of the season, and it was never more apparent than during a 13-6 loss in Week 5 to the Cincinnati Bengals. Perhaps no areas have been affected in the absence of Gronkowski more than the Patriots’ third-down and red zone offenses, as the team ranks 17th and 31st, respectively, in those categories, a year after leading the league in both.
A return by Gronkowski on Sunday would be a boon to the offense as the Patriots (4-1) prepare to host the high-powered Saints (5-0), and whether it’s this week or a future date, the team’s top tight end is eagerly anticipating his season debut.
“It’s going to be a great feeling, obviously,” Gronkowski said of his eventual return. “[I’ve] just been working hard towards that goal and working hard every day to achieve that. It’s going to be exciting, and when it happens, it’s going to be awesome.”
ESPN.com NFL Insider Adam Schefter and ESPNBoston.com’s Field Yates contributed to this report.