CBS sideline voice Evan Washburn reported just prior to the game, based on network's production meetings preparing for the game, that Rob Gronkowski's playing time was "a fluid situation."
Unfortunately fluid would probably not be the word used to describe the Pro Bowl tight end's return to action on opening day in Miami after sitting out the entire preseason while working back from the torn ACL in his right knee suffered last December.
According to ESPNBoston.com, Gronkowski played 38 snaps, including plays negated by penalty. His first appearance of the day didn't take long, entering on third-and-4 on New England's opening possession. He was Tom Brady's target on the play, but the ball fell incomplete.
His first catch of the season came later in the first quarter, when he lined up wide left on first down and hauled in a 10-yard catch to move the chains.
Gronkowski's biggest play of the day came on second-and-goal from the Miami 6 in the second quarter. He lined up as the wing on the right side of the formation before motioning wide and running a slant back to the inside. He was able to drag across the end zone, with Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes strangely trailing behind slowly despite seeming man coverage, and Brady found Gronkowski for the 6-yard touchdown.
The big tight end finished the day with four receptions on 11 targets for 40 yards and the one touchdown. He obviously received a lot of attention from the Miami defense, but that didn't keep Brady from continuing to go to his most talented target. Brady actually missed an open Gronkowski down the right seam late on the Patriots final drive of the day, a comeback effort that certainly would have gotten more interesting had the quarterback not overthrown his tight end on what might have even ended up a touchdown.
Like most of the Patriots on the day, Gronkowski was far from dominant as he seemingly worked to knock off some rust that had him looking a bit awkward at times in his routes wearing both a right knee brace and his usual large, black apparatus on his surgically-repaired left arm.
Still, No. 87 in blue was certainly happy to get back on the field, even if the end results of the 33-20 defeat were far from the desired outcome.
"I mean it feels good to play football again, to be out there with the team," Gronkowski said. "Being out there with your teammates, you win as a team, lose as a team. I just got to keep on improving every single week. I got a lot of things to work on. I got to keep working hard out there in practice."