Time will tell whether tight end Rob Gronkowski returns from his offseason surgical procedures and plays for the first time this season Sunday against Tampa Bay. But Josh McDaniels, the Patriots offensive coordinator, knows what kind of impact Gronkowski's return will have, whenever it comes.
"I think any time you have a player that can make the kind of impact that Rob has made in the past, if you have a player like that back, it has to affect your plan, and hopefully only in a positive manner," McDaniels said Tuesday during the weekly coaches' conference call.
"I don’t know if it would affect the groupings that we would use, or whether we would use tempo or not, I don’t know if that would impact it. But you’d like to have a guy like that on the field as much as you can if he’s ready and able to contribute the way that Rob has been able to."
Tampa Bay will be making its second visit to Gillette Stadium in just over a month. The teams went against each other during joint practices prior to their Aug. 16 preseason game. So coach Bill Belichick knows all about Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman.
"He’s athletic, does a good job in the pocket, he’s hard to get down, runs well," Belichick said. "We have to be very disciplined with our rush lanes, because they roll him out a decent amount with bootlegs, sprint-out plays, things like that.
"He’s got a great arm, he’s a big, tall guy who can see over the line and makes all the throws. We saw that at practice and we’ve seen it in their games."
On the other side of the ball, the Patriots will once again go up against Darrelle Revis. The cornerback is spending his first season in Tampa Bay after six years with the Jets, when he was a four-time All-Pro selection.
"Well, at least we only have to play against him once," Belichick said. "He’s good. I thought he played well against the Jets [in the Bucs' season opener] with some limited playing time, and then this past week he played almost every snap against New Orleans. It looks like he’s playing well."