No one is better at playing Bill Belichick's long game, and it seems that the Patriots coach is continuing to play on the safe side this week with his tight end-world Rob Gronkowski, who will not play against the Titans on Sunday, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported Saturday.
The "a few days after week 11" indicates that it is not blocked to return to the field in week 12. The Patriots are at the Jets for that game before playing the Vikings at home, the Dolphins and Steelers on the road, and the Bills and Jets at home to close the season. Maybe that Steelers game is a good goal for Gronk in a match that could be crucial for placement in the playoffs.
Gronk was listed as questionable arriving on weekends and certainly seemed based on the way he presented his situation to journalists on Friday that he might not play for New England in Nashville on Sunday.
The Patriots are in a good position right now, with an advantage of two games in the AFC East and a lead over the Chiefs for seed number one thanks to their head-to-head tie-break.
New England rested Gronkowski against the Packers in week 9 and still managed to produce a lot of offense and won the game quite easily, surpassing Aaron Rodgers' team by 14 points. So they can certainly afford to let Gronkowski rest when they travel to Nashville to take the Titans; New England is one of the favorites on the road after their robust performance last week.
This does not mean that this is a tribute to the patriots. Nothing is free in the NFL, and even when you are a big favorite you can go out with an L if there is a chance of winning.
But this seems like a game we saw from the Pats a few weeks ago, when New England did their best to score points and get out of Buffalo with a win.
Furthermore, for Gronkowski, it is more important to keep it healthy in the long run in what is called a "challenging" season so far.
"It was more challenging, just with the obstacles in the way," Gronkowski told reporters recently, through the Boston Herald. "But it's life, you have to take them and that's what I'm doing, I just have to go back where I have to be and be myself when I come back, it will be all good".
Belichick has seen a season ignite an unnecessary injury before (Wes Welker snatched his ACL against the Texans in week 17) and has, I believe, adopted a more conservative approach to managing his boys throughout the season ever since.
This situation of Gronkowski applies absolutely to this: having a healthy Gronk for the playoffs should be the highest priority of the Patriots and it is clear that they will make sure that he can shake the problems he has faced this season to help create a Super Race of the bowl