The tight end has been ruled inactive against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Added to the team's injury report Wednesday with a thigh injury, Gronk was listed as questionable to play.
New England's leading receiver in targets and yards through four games, Gronkowski has already been bitten by the injury bug this season. He left the Pats' Week 2 win over New Orleans with a groin injury.
His replacements are able, but not nearly at Gronk's level of production. Dwayne Allen, the former Colts tight end acquired by New England via trade in the offseason, has yet to see a target. The Patriots' third-string tight end, Jacob Hollister, has two receptions for 34 yards on four targets this season. The two combined for just 12 snaps against Carolina in Week 4.
This is the fifth season of Gronk's eight-year career that has been affected by his bout with injuries. The tight end missed eight games last year with separate hamstring, lung and back issues and missed New England's entire postseason run. Back in 2012 and 2013, Gronkowski missed a combined 14 games with hip, forearm, ACL/MCL, back and head injuries.
Gronkowski's durability has always been a question, which must drive the Patriots coaching staff and his quarterback crazy. Even though the Pats are undefeated in games without Gronk since 2016 (11-0), Tom Brady's passer rating is 13.4 points lower when his starting tight end isn't on the field in that span. For a high-powered offense that needs carry the load for a historically bad defense, Gronk's absence on Thursday Night Football will loom large.