The Patriots are expected to have their All-Pro tight end on the field for Sunday's matchup with the Bengals.
According to Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran, Gronkowski is "good to go" after missing Friday's practice due to an illness. Gronkowski was limited in practice all week -- as he has been all year -- with a lingering hamstring injury, but after the team's third and final practice of the week he popped up with an illness.
Gronkowski looked as healthy as he has all season in last weekend's 33-13 win over the Browns. He caught five passes in Tom Brady's return to the field for 109 yards. He also helped open things up for fellow tight end Martellus Bennett, who was the beneficiary of single coverage on multiple occasions and finished the game with three scores.
Bennett is listed as questionable for the Bengals game with an ankle injury he suffered against the Browns, but he told me earlier this week he was feeling good. He's expected to be a go as well, giving the Patriots the option of using the two-tight-end sets that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels favors when he has the right personnel in place.
Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater has signed a two-year deal to return to the team, according to an ESPN's Mike Reiss.
Slater had made a free-agent visit to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday. The seven-time Pro Bowl special teams ace, who turns 33 in September, has spent the past 10 seasons in a New England. Slater, one of the veteran leaders in the locker room, signed a one-year, $1.8 million contract extension in 2016.
The Patriots traded with the Oakland Raiders for kick returner/wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson earlier this week to bolster their special teams.
A new catch rule is coming to the NFL.
So, controversies such as the Jesse James' touchdown reversal in the Steelers' loss to the Patriots in December and the Kelvin Benjamin call in the Bills-Pats game a week later likely would have resulted in upheld TDs under the new rule.
According to the Washington Post, Troy Vincent, the NFL VP of football operations, said competition committee members plan to propose getting rid of portions of the rule related to a receiver going to the ground while making a catch and to slight movement of the football while it’s in the receiver’s hands. Vincent also said the committee also intends to raise the bar by which an on-field ruling of a catch could be overturned via replay review.
That apparently was what was done in Super Bowl 52, when the Eagles' Corey Clement's juggling TD catch was not overturned via replay.
“We worked backward,” said Vincent told the Post. “We looked at plays and said: Do you want that to be a catch? And then we applied that to the rule.”
The rule modifications could be approved by the competition committee as early Tuesday, the Post reported, and owners will meet next week in Orlando to vote on it. Rule changes must be approved by at least 24 of the 32 franchises. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been pushing for the catch rule to be modified.