FOXBORO -- The Patriots will likely be without their All-Pro tight end when they take on the 49ers in San Francisco this weekend.
Rob Gronkowski was absent from the start of Patriots practice for the third consecutive day Friday, which is an indication that he probably won't be traveling with the team later on Friday afternoon.
Gronkowski sat out of both Wednesday and Thursday's practices due to a chest injury he suffered against the Seahawks on Sunday. If Gronkowski can't go, that could mean a more significant role for Martellus Bennett in the Patriots passing game. It also could mean that No. 3 tight end Matt Lengel, signed off of the Bengals practice squad during Week 9, could potentially be activated in order to provide the team with more depth at that position.
"We've thrown him in there on a few things," Bill Belichick said of Lengel earlier this week. "He seems to be picking things up fairly well. He's long. A lot of [his practice work] has been running the other team's plays and some fundamental work and things like that after practice, but he's making progress. He's good to work with, a good kid, works hard."
Patriots left tackle Nate Solder was back on the field Friday after missing Thursday's practice for a non injury related reason.