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Buccaneers TE Rob Gronkowski has multiple cracked ribs, won't play vs. Patriots

Rob Gronkowski's New England homecoming won't happen on Sunday night, and the Buccaneers tight end could miss more time.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports Gronkowski did not travel with the Buccaneers and will be held out versus the Patriots, per a source. The team later announced the news.

The Buccaneers tight end was declared doubtful with a rib injury on the Bucs' official injury report Friday.

Gronkowski is dealing with at least four cracked ribs and has a punctured lung, Rapoport reported Sunday, per a source.

The tight end sustained the rib injury early in the third quarter of last week's road loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Gronk exited before returning late in the quarter, finishing the game with four catches for 55 yards.

This is the first game Gronkowski will miss since coming out of retirement to play in Tampa Bay ahead of the 2020 season, making his rib injury an untimely development ahead of he and Brady's return to New England. The 32-year-old got off to a hot start in 2021 with 16 receptions for 184 yards and four touchdowns in the first three games.

Bucs quarterback Tom Brady will still have great options at tight end despite Gronkowski's absence. Cameron Brate (five receptions, 43 yards) and O.J. Howard (2/32) are now poised to get more opportunities in the Bucs' high-powered offense which generates plenty of attention with a stellar receiving corps.

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