FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — These are edgy times for all those fantasy football owners who used a high draft pick on New England Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski.
“Yeah, I know it,” Gronkowski, who has just one catch for 11 yards this season, told reporters with a smile Wednesday. “I can’t even go to the grocery store without getting yelled at. I’m like, ‘Why did you draft me then?’”
The bad news: Gronkowski admits the hamstring injury that made him inactive for the season’s first two games “obviously” has held him back, and he didn’t feel as explosive as usual when he got back on the field.
“When you get injured, you kind of start back at day zero,” he said.
The good news: Gronkowski says the hamstring is “progressing every single week, every single day, and hopefully, this week, it’s go time.”
His playing time increased last week, from 14 snaps against the Houston Texans on Sept. 22 to 39 snaps Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. But he’s run just 15 pass patterns on those 53 snaps (28%), including two plays where he blocked and released to the flat.
Last season, Gronkowski ran patterns on roughly 60% of the snaps he played, catching 72 passes for 1,176 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also was used mostly as the wing (outside) in the Patriots’ two-tight sets — duties that have gone this season to Martellus Bennett, while Gronkowski has blocked more as the Y tight end (inside).
The absence of quarterback Tom Brady, who is back from his Deflategate suspension and will start Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, has clearly impacted the Patriots’ offensive approach. (They ranked fifth in pass attempts per game in 2015 and are dead last so far this season, with just 114 passes total.) But Gronkowski admits he hasn’t been himself, either.
“Coming back, you just can’t go full speed, at a hundred percent,” he said. “I wish I could. I wish it was like that. Just boom, I’m healthy. Boom, go out there, run full speed. But I’ve just got to take it slowly, making sure you’re coming back strong, coming back the right way so everything in your body feels good. And when I can get rolling, I’m going to be rolling.”
Asked if those fantasy owners will get a return on their investment, Gronkowski said: “Hopefully.”
But he’s not too concerned about those folks, either.
“What do I got to say to them?” Gronkowski said. “It’s real football. That’s what I’m really only worried about, is going out there and getting the W. So, we get the W and I have no catches, I’m satisfied, man.”
Follow Tom Pelissero on Twitter @TomPelissero.
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