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Will Rob Gronkowski Ever Return to the Field?

In the mysterious case of when will New England tight end Rob Gronkowski make his 2013 debut, fans may have a little bit more of an idea or a confirmation on Thursday: he hasn’t received medical clearance by Dr. James Andrews.

Appearing on the Miami radio show, Joe Rose Show on 560 WQAM, Gronkowski’s agent Drew Rosenhaus said via ESPN, “Up to this point, he hasn’t been cleared to play in a game. He has not been cleared by Dr. Andrews, who is the supervising doctor.”

Meanwhile Gronkowski has participated on a daily basis in the Patriots regular season practices if even it has been limited. His coach, Bill Belichick, has referred to the player as “day to day”, causing fans each week to analyze the injury report and wonder if this will be the week that Gronk plays.

Last week, there were rumors that with his practicing but not playing routine, it was starting to cause friction in the Patriots’ locker room. Patriots team president Jonathan Craft attempted to dispute this.

Rosenhaus tried to clarify things by adding on Thursday, “There’s a huge difference between being cleared to practice and being cleared to play in a game. I’ve had great dialogue with Coach Belichick and the Patriots’ medical staff and Rob and his family. Everybody’s on the same page, except it’s gotten a lot of play in the media and all these unsubstantiated sources.”

Keep in mind, Gronk is recovering from four arm surgeries and a back procedure in the last year. His caution shouldn’t be too much of a surprise even after he’s played before right after surgeries.

But is it a question of money? Or shall we say, protecting his assets?

Last season, Gronkowski inked a contract extension valued at a $55 million maximum but he’ll have to remain healthy through the end of the 2015 season to get most of the payday. Regardless, he’ll get a $3.75 million base salary (and $250,000 workout bonus) next year. But 2015 will be key as he’ll get a $4.75 million base fully guaranteed salary–if he’s a Patriots team member come day No. 5 of that NFL year (around the middle of March).

Should he exit the team’s radar as an “effective player” he could get his walking papers and save the team 2015 cap space.

On Thursday after the team’s practice, Gronkowski referred to himself as “day to day” reported the Boston Globe, but maybe a more telling answer was the one after he had been asked, if he “would be playing now if the decision were solely up to him.”

Uh, he didn’t respond affirmatively but said, “Ah, I wouldn’t say that because I mean, I … you’ve got to go through the process of asking the doctors and everything, so I’m not just going to make a decision by myself. That’s why you have a whole organization, to work together.

“Obviously I want to be out there.”

So Gronkowski is drinking the Patriots Kool-Aid. At what point will that change? Maybe if he continues to not play but when he’s set to he return, is probably up to his hands-on, secretive coach.

Debbie Baratz

Deb has been writing about the NFL and NCAA football for the last few years. She is a full-time writer and an avid sports fan. Follow her on twitter @ldbar.

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