I get it. The Patriots have preached for years that nobody is bigger than the team. Blah, blah, blah. But you and I both know this team will not win a Super Bowl if Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski aren't healthy. They are bigger than the team.
Gronkowski left Sunday's game against the Jets in the first quarter after just a handful of plays. He was already questionable to play after sustaining a lung/chest injury (depending on who you believe) against Seattle. I'm glad the Patriots played it safe with Gronk against New York, but I'm pleading for even more precaution.
New England has one difficult game left on their schedule: Week 15 at Denver. The Patriots don't need Gronk to beat the Rams next week. They shouldn't need him to beat the Ravens the following Monday. Week 16 brings about a rematch against the Jets, but that should be much easier than Sunday's tilt (not to mention the Jets will probably bench Fitzpatrick by then). Week 17 in Miami could have a lot on the line, or it might not.
Gronkowski has already missed two games with a hamstring injury, and a third game last week. His physical style lends himself to more injuries, not to mention he fell in the 2010 NFL Draft due to injury concerns.
The offense just isn't the same without him. We saw that against the Jets on Sunday. But New England should have enough weapons, especially with the emerging Malcolm Mitchell, to allow Gronkowski to rest up so that he can carry the Patriots when it matters the most. Remember, he has at least 1 TD catch in 5 straight playoff games. New England is 4-1 in those games. In the only loss, he grabbed 8 catches for 144 yards (in Denver).
Even though early reports suggest his back injury is minor, I'd sit Gronkowski for at least the next 2 games, and re-evaluate his status heading to Denver in December. Only time will tell if the Patriots play it safe or roll the dice, but even as a gambling man, I wouldn't take the chance.
Follow Craig Kolodny on twitter @NBCBostonCraig