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Saturday Injury Report: Rob Gronkowski Ruled Out For Week 1

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Jimmy Garoppolo will begin his four-game stint as starting quarterback of the New England Patriots, without the team’s top target to help him along the way.

The Patriots announced on Friday that tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has been dealing with an injured hamstring and seen a limited amount of reps all preseason, will miss the team’s Week 1 Sunday Night Football showdown with the Arizona Cardinals.

The Pats’ All-Pro tight end initially injured the hamstring nearly a month ago, in an August 15 practice at Patriots camp, when he pulled up lame during a passing drill. He sat out practice for over a week before returning, but even after getting back on the field, his participation was limited. Still the injury was never portrayed as something that could see him miss time during the regular season.

It’s unclear if Gronkowski pushed himself and further injured the hamstring, or if the same issue just continues to linger. But doubt about his status started to creep in as the Patriots preparation for their game against the Cardinals began to heat up this week and Gronk wasn’t a participant. But as late as Thursday, both Gronkowski and the team expressed optimism that he would be ready to play Sunday.

“It boils to a coaching decision, the medical team, and myself,” the All-Pro tight end said on Thursday. “We’ll all get together and collaborate and see where I’m at.”

Then came the news that Gronkowski wasn’t traveling with the team and wouldn’t be active for Sunday’s game. It’s a huge blow for the Patriots offense, which was going to have trouble with Garoppolo leading the charge in his first NFL start against the stout Cardinals defense. Newcomer Martellus Bennett will see an increased role as the lead tight end with Gronkowski out and could be in for a big game, as could water bug wideouts Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola, who may all see more targets.

The Pats also go into the game without the services of Brady, of course, as well as running back Dion Lewis, who remains on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Additionally, New England announced on Friday that, like Gronkowski, tackle Nate Solder and guard Jonathan Cooper also did not travel with the team to Arizona and are both out on Sunday, leaving Garoppolo short two of his best men up front. It all makes for quite the uphill climb for the 24-year-old quarterback in his first NFL start, against a team that is among the league’s Super Bowl favorites this year. But as stacked as the odds are against them, if we’ve learned one thing about the Patriots over the years, it’s to never count them out.

JAMAAL CHARLES LISTED AS DOUBTFUL FOR CHIEFS 

As his recovery from a torn ACL in Week 5 last season hits its 11th month this week, the Kansas City Chiefs are still taking every precaution in getting star running back Jamaal Charles back to full health.

On the injury report released on Friday, Charles was listed as doubtful for Kansas City’s opener against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, and coach Andy Reid said it’s unlikely Charles suits up for the game.

“He’s leaning more towards not playing,” Reid said. “Jamaal is probably not going to play.”

Charles originally tore the ACL in his right knee on October 11th of last year, putting Sunday’s season opener exactly 11 months from the date of the injury. The expectation going into training camp was that the All-Pro running back would be ready to go for Week 1, but the Chiefs training staff has been bringing him along methodically to ensure he’s at 100 percent when he returns.

Aiding in that decision to move Charles along slowly so that they have him for the long haul is the fact that Kansas City has what may be the deepest backfield depth chart in the league. Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West both filled in ably for Charles last season, and each provided a spark that Kansas City as they rallied to win 11 straight games down the stretch in Charles’ stead, reach the playoffs, and even beat the Houston Texans in the Wild Card round once they got there.

It’s also important to note that this isn’t Charles’ first time coming back from a ACL tear that ended his previous season early. He tore the ACL in his left knee on Sept. 18, 2011 in Detroit. Charles came back in 2012 and did not start the Chiefs’s first game, though he did play and carried the ball 16 times for 87 yards. He went on to have one of his best seasons, compiling a career-high 1,509 rushing yards.

Sure Charles is a few years older now at age 29, but right up through last season’s injury he has remained one of the most dynamic backs in the league, continuing to maintain a crazy 5.5 yards per carry average over the course of his eight-year career. That’s enough evidence to believe that once he’s right, Charles should come back strong, and whenever that is, it will provide a boost for a Kansas City team that wants him healthy for the long haul as they make a run at a championship this season.

LUCK AND WATT WILL PLAY; WHITE A QUESTION MARK FOR DEBUT

Two other NFL stars saw their shaky statuses for the coming week find stable ground as both Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt are expected to play in their respective Week 1 games.

Luck had been dealing with lingering effects from the shoulder injury that cost him the end of last season, but was a full participant in Friday’s practice and will make his return for the Colts against the Lions on Sunday. Watt, who had back surgery in July and was initially thought to be in line to miss the first few weeks of the season, practiced for the first time since his surgery this week and by Friday he was also a full participant in the team’s preparation to play the Bears.

“I can do anything and everything I’m asked,” Watt said. “I’m sure they’re going to try to put some limitations on me, [but] the way I felt in the last two practices, I don’t feel it’s necessary.”

That game in Houston was also thought to be the NFL debut of 2015 No. 7 overall pick Kevin White, who missed all of last season after suffering a stress fracture in his leg during training camp. But White appeared on Chicago’s injury report on Thursday and is listed as questionable for Sunday. Bears guard Kyle Long is also listed as questionable for the opener.


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys