Report: Pats, Gronkowski have eyes on tight end playing Week 1

Rob Gronkowski has been working out in OTAs this offseason, and reportedly has eyes on being in a game uniform come Week 1.

Stew Milne/Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Apparently, Rob Gronkowski has his eyes set on being the next Adrian Peterson.

That doesn’t mean he expects to be carrying the New England running game this coming season, but he reportedly does expect to be playing Week 1. And considering where the All-Pro tight end was six months ago, that alone is eye-opening news.

Gronkowski has been rehabbing his right knee the past half-year after tearing his ACL and MCL against the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 8. And while the timetable for such an injury was typically in the 12-month range a few years ago (and for many players, still is), Gronkowski and the Patriots have set a goal of having the 25-year-old on the field for the team’s season opener at Miami on Sept. 7 — one day shy of nine months after the injury — NFL.com reported.

That would put Gronkowski on par with Peterson, the Vikings running back who tore the same ligaments in December 2011 then returned to play in all 16 games in 2012, rushing for 2,097 yards and winning NFL MVP.

What’s more, NFL.com reported that Gronkowski could be ready for the beginning of training camp in late July, but added that the team will not do anything to jeopardize his chances at being ready for the start of the regular season.

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Injury recovery is nothing new for Gronkowski, who has spent the past two-plus years dealing with injuries.

He severely sprained an ankle vs. the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC championship game in January 2012. He played in the Patriots’ loss to the Giants in the Super Bowl two weeks later, but subsequently needed offseason surgery.

In November of the following season, he broke his arm and again needed surgery. He returned for the postseason, but broke the arm again on the Patriots’ eighth offensive play in the divisional round against Houston on Jan. 13, 2013. What followed was a nightmare offseason which saw Gronkowski develop an infection in the arm and need two more surgeries (a total of four on the arm in 10 months), followed by back surgery last summer.

He returned for New England’s seventh game of last season, scored touchdowns in four consecutive games beginning with his third game, then went down with the knee injury in his seventh game.

Before the injuries, Gronkowski had developed into the consensus top tight end in football. He scored double-digit touchdowns in each of his first three seasons (2010-12), including 18 in 2011 — one rushing and 17 receiving — breaking the NFL single-season records for total TDs and receiving TDs by a tight end. Even in the injury-shortened 2012 season (11 games), Gronkowski scored 11 touchdowns and was named to his second Pro Bowl.

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