The New England Patriots have been struggling on offense, sparking criticism and calls for them to add far more talent. Retired tight end Rob Gronkowski had been named as a potential savior for Tom Brady's stat sheet, but he will no longer be eligible. The deadline for him to make a return has passed and Gronkowski will now have to spend the remainder of the season on the sidelines.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the deadline for the tight end to return was Saturday at 4:00 p.m. ET. This was the last business day prior to a Week 13 game for reinstatement for players on the reserve list.
With the deadline having passed, the Patriots will have to wait longer for a potential Gronkowski return. The earliest he can rejoin the team will be following the Super Bowl.
There wasn't much question about Gronkowski's future heading into the weekend given that he had previously stated he had no plans to return in 2019. Instead, he would be hosting a Super Bowl party this February. As the tight end said to ESPN, he wasn't shutting down his career for good; he was simply avoiding a return to the lineup this year.
"I wouldn't say 'never coming back,'" Gronkowski said to Mike Reiss. "I'm 30 years old. I'm young. I still stay fit, still watch the game whenever I can, still enjoy it. I'm feeling good, but you know, one year off could possibly be the case. Or maybe two years off, man."
As Gronkowski said to Reiss at the time, he was still keeping up with the Patriots and has been tracking their struggles on offense. He certainly believes that Tom Brady and co. are missing a big-bodied weapon that can find success in the red zone, which was one of the many roles he filled in New England.
This lack of offensive weapons was evident during a Sunday night loss to the Houston Texans. Brady relied almost solely on veteran receiver Julian Edelman and running back James White when he needed to make a play. First-round rookie receiver N'Keal Harry was targeted once (an interception), and he was essentially benched following that play. Meanwhile, Phillip Dorsett and Jakobi Meyers combined for five receptions for 61 yards.
If Brady had someone such as Gronkowski available in the offense, it's likely that the Patriots would have secured an 11th win and a playoff spot during Sunday Night Football. Instead, the Texans won and secured head coach Bill O'Brien's first victory against his former team.
(Photo Credit: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty)