The season-long Rob Gronkowski watch continued Friday with the New England Patriots star tight end still listed as questionable for making his 2013 debut.
The struggling Patriots offense needs the two-time Pro Bowl standout, but he again is questionable for the fourth straight week. The final injury report was issued Friday, as the Patriots prepare for the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
Gronkowski is coming back from offseason surgeries on his left forearm and back and has been a limited participant in every practice since the regular season began. His standard response has been "day by day" when asked when he might return.
"It’s basically nothing new," he said Thursday. "We’re day by day, like we’ve been from the very beginning."
Of the 10 players listed as questionable for last Sunday’s 13-6 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals — meaning there’s a 50-50 chance of playing — only Gronkowski and safety Tavon Wilson didn’t play.
The Patriots (4-1) could have placed Gronkowski on the physically unable to perform list at the start of the season, forcing him to miss the first six games. Sunday’s game against the Saints (5-0) is the sixth. But players on the list aren’t allowed to practice with the team. He has been among the Patriots inactives for each of the first five games.
On Friday, coach Bill Belichick expressed support for the team’s medical personnel.
"We have confidence in all of them," he said, "and they do a good job."
Gronkowski broke his left forearm while blocking on an extra point late in the Patriots’ win over the Indianapolis Colts Nov. 18. He had surgery, missed five games and returned for the season finale against the Miami Dolphins.
He broke the forearm again when he landed on it on an incomplete pass from Tom Brady in the first quarter of the Patriots’ playoff win over the Houston Texans, then had surgery and missed the AFC championship loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
He underwent two more operations on the forearm after an infection developed, then had back surgery in June.
After the fourth forearm surgery on May 20, Gronkowski’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said, "He should make a full recovery, according to the doctors I met with."
Without him, the Patriots have been one of the NFL’s least productive teams. They’re 24th in points and 18th in yards per game after leading the league in both categories last year.
The defense has been solid but won’t have starting defensive tackle Tommy Kelly against the Saints. He is listed as out with a knee injury. The other starting defensive tackle, Vince Wilfork, is on season-ending injured reserve.
Also listed as out is running back Leon Washington, who has played a limited role.