Though the season is only half over, it seems that in some ways it's already been a rather long year for Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
The All-Pro has dealt with back and ankle injuries, missing one game to the former. His production after a tumultuous offseason, during which he pondered retirement and was reportedly nearly traded, has been way down compared to past years.
Then, this week, Gronkowski walked out of his Wednesday press conference early after apparently growing frustrated with questions, including one about his confidence level.
A day later, Gronkowski was absent from the practice field, missing Thursday's full-pads workout as New England continued its preparation for Sunday night's big showdown with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers at Gillette Stadium.
The Boston Globe calls Gronkowski's practice absence "a bit of a surprise." The Globe also writes about wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson being in a rush to help out the Patriots ground game. The Globe notes that with all the changes in the backfield early this season, the one consistent has been the contributions of Pro Bowl fullback James Develin.
The Boston Herald looks at how newcomer Trent Brown has filled a big hole on the New England offensive line this season. TheHerald otes that dual injuries forced Gronkowski to miss practice.
The Providence Journal says the Patriots defense is looking for a confidence boost against Green Bay. The ProJo notes that guard Shaq Mason was also absent from practice on Thursday.
ESPN looks at what the rosters of all 32 NFL teams could look like in 2020, strangely including Marcus Cannon among seven "locks" for the Patriots roster, while excluding Brady.
WEEI.com has former Patriots executive Mike Lombardi saying that Gronkowski "is not right." WEEI.com wonders who will fill the open roster spot New England has had since placing cornerback Eric Rowe in injured reserve earlier this week.
NBC Sports Boston writes about how Tom Brady and Rodgers have "studied each other for years." NBC Sports Boston notes Gronkowksi being held out of practice.
There are no Patriots on the NFL.com midseason All-Pro team. Brady barely makes the top 10 in NFL.com's quarterback rankings at this point in the season. NFL.com predicts the Patriots will beat the Packers on Sunday night.
NESN.com also has Lombardi explaining how the Josh Gordon discipline story that came about prior to last Monday night's game in Buffalo never really made sense to the former New England executive. NESN.com says Trey Flowers is making a massive impact for the Patriots despite a low sack total this season.
CBSSports.com passes along Brady saying the Rodgers would smash NFL passing records if he played for the Patriots. CBSSports.com also notes that New England has the best Super Bowl odds at this point in the season.
Yahoo! sports has five questions for the weekend of NFL action, including one about the Packers defense facing a challenge in New England.