The team listed Gronkowski as doubtful for Sunday's opener against the Buffalo Bills as he recovers from arm and back surgery. While Gronkowski has rapidly increased his workload at practice over the last week, it would have been very surprising to see him play in the season opener. There is optimism around the Patriots that Gronkowski could return to the team sooner than later, with Week 2 or 3 a possibility.
In the meantime, undrafted rookie Zach Sudfeld will be Tom Brady's key pass catcher at tight end. Rookie Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson will play key roles at wide receiver. Danny Amendola (groin) is listed as probable after practicing all week.
The Patriots have won nine straight opening weeks, the longest streak in the NFL. After facing Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel this week, the Pats host Geno Smith and the New York Jets in Week 2. There isn't a better time of year for Gronkowski to miss some games.