Gronkowski, Amendola likely out
After being limited during practice throughout the week, New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola (groin) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm) are questionable for Sunday night's matchup against the Falcons in Atlanta. Neither is expected to play, according to ESPN's John Clayton.
For Amendola, who said earlier this week that he anticipates being 100 percent "shortly," this represents an upgrade from last week's status, when he was listed as doubtful before sitting out against the Buccaneers.
He has been a limited participant in practice since injuring his groin against the Bills in Week 1 and clearly was affected by the injury in the days following. He has shown steady improvement since, as he has moved with less strain in more recent practices.
Gronkowski, meanwhile, is questionable to play for the second straight week after being listed as doubtful for the first two weeks of the season. The Patriots have been without their star tight end since a divisional round playoff win over the Texans in last season's playoffs, during which he re-broke the same forearm that was initially injured in Week 11 of last season.
In addition to the forearm injury, Gronkowski had a back procedure in June that typically requires roughly 12 weeks of recovery time. This past Tuesday was 14 weeks removed from the operation, and signs point to a return from Gronkowski in the near future, perhaps as soon as Sunday night.
He has stressed in recent weeks that he continues to improve and is working to regain the strength throughout his body, as he was forced to rest for a couple of months while recovering from the final surgery.
Besides Gronkowski and Amendola, six other Patriots were listed as questionable, including starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer. The offensive lineman missed the Tuesday and Wednesday practices with a foot injury but practiced Friday on a limited basis. Also questionable are Kyle Arrington (groin), Nate Ebner (ankle), Will Svitek (knee) and Leon Washington (thigh).
Vollmer is not expected to play, according to Clayton. If he can't go, third-year player Marcus Cannon is likely to start in his place. Cannon played 37 snaps in relief of Vollmer during Week 3 and drew praise from coach Bill Belichick for his performance.
For the second consecutive week, the Patriots also will be without their top special-teams performer, as captain Matthew Slater has been ruled out due to a wrist injury.
The Patriots also announced the release of reserve cornerback Marquice Cole on Friday. Cole had been limited this week with a hamstring injury, and this could be a case in which the Patriots needed a roster spot and Cole could return when he is back to full health. His primary contributions come on special teams.
For the Falcons, starting running back Steven Jackson will miss his second consecutive game with a hamstring injury. Four players were listed as questionable, including star wideout Julio Jones (knee), fellow receiver Roddy White (ankle) and cornerback Asante Samuel (thigh).
The Patriots are looking to improve to 4-0 for the first time since 2007.
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