CHICAGO – It looked like business as usual for Rob Gronkowski this past week. Even though he's been playing on at least one bad ankle for the past few weeks, he was seen in the locker room following Friday's practice and even chatted with a few members of the media.
However, the final injury report of the week indicated that he suffered a back injury on Friday. Originally a questionable listing to play versus Chicago, he was downgraded to doubtful, but didn't make the trip here, and this morning, was officially declared out.
The offense will miss his big-play ability and safety-valve reliability when QB Tom Brady needs to generate a drive-sustaining play or two.
The pass-catching load must now shift more to the wide receivers and running back James White.
Meanwhile, the O will also be without right tackle Marcus Cannon (concussion), which means LaAdrian Waddle will start in that spot. Expect tight end Dwayne Allen to help out often in blocking the Bears' feared pass rusher Khalil Mack (more on him in a minute).
Five other Patriots won't see action today. Three were questionable with injuries they've been dealing with of late: tight end Jacob Hollister (hamstring), defensive end John Simon (shoulder), and defensive end Geneo Grissom (ankle). Simon and Grissom are predominantly special teams contributors.
The final two – offensive lineman Brian Schwenke and defensive end Keionta Davis – are healthy scratches (not listed on the injury report), as they have been at times this season. That means defensive tackle Malcom Brown will be back in action after missing last week's game with a knee injury. That should help bolster the Patriots' front against the Bears' rushing attack.
From the Bears sideline, Mack is less than 100 percent with an ankle injury suffered a week ago.
However, Chicago's best defensive player will suit up and play, at least at the start of this game. How effective he'll be and how long he'll be out there could impact how the Bears are able to defend New England's potent, versatile offense.