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Report: Gronkowski could miss “weeks” with fractured ribs

Drew Brees couldn't imagine walking out of the victors tunnel in New Orleans but sees the Sunday Night Football showdown as an opportunity for New England, the city of Boston, and for Tom Brady himself to find "closure."

On Monday, ESPN reported that further X-rays on Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski’s ribs were negative, a day after the team said that Sunday X-rays were negative. On Saturday, ESPN reported that Gronk has broken ribs.

Per the report, Gronkowski could be sidelines for “weeks.”

If the Buccaneers thought that Gronk will be out for at least 12 more days, they could have put him on injured reserve. By rule, he can return after missing only three games. Since he’s already missing Sunday’s game at New England, he would then have to miss only two more -- next Sunday against the Dolphins and the following Thursday against the Eagles.

But he hasn’t been placed on IR, so it’s unclear whether they’re convinced he’ll miss both Week Five and Week Six, in addition to Week Four.

Regardless, they won’t have him for Tom Brady’s return to New England. Given the way Gronk has played this year, that will give the Patriots an extra edge in their effort to beat Brady.