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Rob Gronkowski likely to sit for New England Patriots

Statement Sunday

Christmas comes early for NFL fans. There are six Week 15 games with major postseason implications. Take a closer look at these pivotal matchups:

» Giants at Falcons
» Broncos at Ravens
» Packers at Bears
» Colts at Texans
» Steelers at Cowboys
» 49ers at Patriots

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Rob Gronkowski has taken his first step toward a return for the New England Patriots -- though that's unlikely to come this week.

NFL.com's Albert Breer reported that Gronkowski participated in practice Friday for the first time since suffering a broken bone in his forearm Nov. 18 against the Indianapolis Colts. However, a source briefed on the injury told Breer that the Patriots' star tight end is expected to sit out Sunday's matchup against the San Francisco 49ers.

Breer reported earlier this week that the plan all along has been to get Gronkowski some playing time before the postseason, but that he was a long shot for this week.

The Patriots have averaged 38 points per game in their three matchups without Gronkowski, and Tom Brady has another impact tight end he can lean on in Aaron Hernandez. Gronkowski will make the offense even more dangerous when he returns, but the Patriots don't want to rush him back in the lineup.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.

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