Tom Brady knows he'll be without his most dynamic offensive weapon for -- in all likelihood -- the remainder of the season.
The Patriots and Rob Gronkowski's family released a joint statement that said the expectation was that the All-Pro's 2016 campaign is over. But even before that statement was released, Brady told Jim Gray of Westwood One Radio on Thursday night that his team had a lot of work to do in order to try to overcome Gronkowski's absence.
"Well, you know, it doesn't help losing great players," Brady said. "And to not have Gronk out there -- one of our best players and most dependable, consistent players -- and not in the lineup makes things challenging for us. But that's what the NFL season is about. It's about overcoming challenges.
"We have a lot of good players on our team that are going to need to fill the void, and it's a big void left by such a spectacular player in Gronk. But I don't think that any of us are going to give up on what we're trying to accomplish."
The Patriots offense will take on a different look without Gronkowski. They may lean heavily on Martellus Bennett, but their two-tight-end packages may be replaced by more three-receiver sets, meaning more work for either Malcolm Mitchell or Danny Amendola alongside Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels could also turn to his his two-back "pony" sets with both James White and Dion Lewis in the backfield, providing the team with a two dual-threat options.
However the Patriots proceed, they'll have their work cut out for them. Gronkowski has caught 25 passes for 540 yards -- an average of 21.6 yards per catch, which is a career-high. He's also a captain, something the Patriots and the Gronkowski family referenced in their joint statement Thursday night.
"He's such a mentally tough person," Brady said. "He's physically tough. He's got such a great energy and spirit about him. We're all wishing him the very best. Nobody wants Gronk not out there. Everybody wants Gronk out there every play of every game. But that's not our reality. We still have a job to do, and we're going to go out there and try to do it as well as we possibly can."
Brady was asked if he had spoken to Gronkowski recently.
"I've seen him the last few days so I've spoken to him a few times," Brady said. "Everyone's thinking about him and what he's gone through. It's such a physical sport, it's hard to see people you care about go through injuries. He's gone through his fair share, but I also know the resolve that he has, and that will never change with him. He'll be as determined as ever to get back and get better as soon as possible."