Rob Gronkowski ready to return to Patriots practice?

By Gregg Rosenthal
Updated: Dec. 12, 2012 at 10:27 a.m.

The Gronk Spike could return for "Sunday Night Football" this week.

Shalise Manza-Young of the Boston Globe reports that New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is expected to try to practice this week as the team prepares to face the San Francisco 49ers.

Gronkowski broke his forearm on Nov. 19. Since then, he's been seen in odd Gronk-like activities like attending local college classes in a sling. The team has won all three games without Gronkowski, averaging 38 points-per-game.

Since Gronkowski's injury, the team has also lost Julian Edelman and replacement pickup Donte' Stallworth for the year. The Patriots will re-sign Deion Branch, according to's Albert Breer.

Breer said on NFL Network's "NFL Total Access" on Tuesday night that Gronk had told people close to him that he wanted to come back during this two-game stretch of prime-time games, but it was "unlikely" to happen. With games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins to end the season, the Patriots could be careful with when they bring him back, according to Breer.

The Patriots have scored 97 more points than any team in the NFL despite not having Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez healthy at the same time for virtually the whole season.