'Huge stretch' for Rob Gronkowski to play Week 1
Many people already figured that Gronkowski was unlikely to suit up for the Patriots' season opener, but this pretty much confirms what we had already assumed. The big thing for Gronkowski will now be to avoid the PUP list at the start of the regular season. If the Patriots do decide to stick Gronk on the regular season PUP, he will be ineligible for the first six games of the year.
For what it's worth, ESPN reported two weeks ago that Gronkowski is likely to avoid the regular season PUP. Another source recently said that Gronkowski "looks great, is doing great," so despite missing the season opener, news regarding Gronk could definitely be a lot worse.
It was also reported Monday that Jake Ballard is likely to replace Gronkowski as the Patriots' in-line tight end. Although he doesn't offer nearly the same amount of production in the passing game, Ballard is a viable blocker who will help running back Stevan Ridley remain a stud in the running game.
Zach Sudfeld - a rookie tight end whose strength is more receiving than blocking - is expected to replace Aaron Hernandez as the Patriots' flex tight end. If Gronkowski's fantasy owners want a handcuff to fill in until the big guy is healthy, Sudfeld is the man to have. He'll be a back-end TE1 until Gronkowski returns, and could continue to make an impact even after that.