Gronkowski's exact timetable to return from back surgery remains uncertain, but this news shows the Patriots are hopeful he will return relatively early in the season. Placing Gronkowski on reserve/PUP would have prevented him from playing or practicing for the first six weeks of the season. Breer previously reported that late September was a potential target for Gronkowski's return.
Keeping Gronkowski on the active roster is not a huge, huge surprise. Even one extra game of Gronkowski would be worth holding a roster spot for him. It also will allow the Patriots to evaluate his progress on the practice field earlier.