The New England Patriots knew that they would have to play the first four games of the season without their star quarterback Tom Brady, but he won't be the only key man missing from their lineup this weekend.
The AFC East side announced on Friday that their top tight end Rob Gronkowski as well would not be playing in their opening game of the 2016 season against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night, as well as offensive linemen Jonathan Cooper and Nate Solder.
The 27-year-old was limited in practice all week long due to a hamstring injury he picked up two weeks ago. His absence means there's one less passing option for backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who is replacing Brady under center and is making his first NFL start against the Cardinals.
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Although he isn't exactly a like-for-like player, the Patriots shouldn't have many problems at the tight end position on game day, as the recently traded for Martellus Bennett will be the primary pass catcher at the position.
Since entering the NFL in 2010, Gronk has only ever missed 15 games due to injury, 15 games which the Patriots still had Brady on the field. They've never had a game like this before where two of their key offensive members are missing in recent memory.
According to Adam Schefter as well: "Since 2010, New England has run 6,520 offensive plays. Only 96 of those have come with Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady off the field." It's going to be tough either way for the AFC East side.
It's going to look strange without either Gronk or Brady lining up for the Patriots come Sunday, and it will be a true test to see how good Garoppolo really is as he enters the second-to-last year of his rookie contract.