FOXBORO -- Though it's clear that Rob Gronkowski is staring at a significant recovery period following back surgery, it remains somewhat unclear as to whether or not his season is definitely finished.
According to Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News, Gronkowski is expected to be out of action for eight weeks. If Gronkowski could return following that eight-week period, that would mean he'd be available to the Patriots at the end of January -- not in time for the AFC title game, but perhaps in time for the Super Bowl on Feb. 5.
If that's the case, and there is the possibility that Gronkowski would be healthy enough to play for a championship in Houston, the Patriots may face a difficult choice: Keep Gronkowski on the 53-man roster, or place him on season-ending injured reserve to free up a roster spot for another player?
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One indication that this latest development with Gronkowski may have caught the Patriots somewhat off-guard is that they opted to designate third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett as their player to return off of IR. Had they kept that designation in their back pocket, they would have left the door open to place Gronkowski on IR and free up a roster spot while keeping alive the possibility of bringing the All-Pro tight end back for the Super Bowl.
Gronkowski is a unique player whose impact on the Patriots offense is so valuable that the Patriots might consider making him the 53rd man on the roster for the remainder of the regular season and most of the playoffs just on the off-chance that he could help them win Lombardi Trophy No. 5.
Aside from Tom Brady, he may be the only player on the roster worthy of that kind of consideration.