Dec 30, 2012; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) exits the field after he game against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium. The New England Patriots defeated the Miami Dolphins 28-0. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Rob Gronkowski targeting mid-September return to New England Patriots

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After expecting that New England Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski wouldn’t be back in time for the season opener, it appears he could be back shortly after.

Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald reports that a source tells them that Gronkowski is “close” for an opening day debut, but he should be back by mid-September. Specifically, by week three against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

[Gronkowski is]healed and advanced to the point where he would be close to playing Week 1 in Buffalo, the source said.

However, the more realistic time frame for him to be ready and in “football shape” would be shortly after, right around Game 3 against Tampa Bay assuming there are no setbacks.

The report goes on to explain that if a return that early is anticipated, it’s doubtful that the tight end would stay on the physically unactive to perform list — if so, he would have to miss the first six games of the season.

Gronkowski didn’t miss a single game in his first two seasons with the Patriots, but has since missed five games last season and has undergone multiple surgeries with his ankle.

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