NFL Notes: Gronkowski cleared for season debut

NFL Notes: Gronkowski cleared for season debut
October 18, 2013, 6:15 pm
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Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski will make his season debut Sunday against the Jets. (AP)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The long wait for Rob Gronkowski's 2013 debut appears over.

The New England Patriots star tight end "has now been cleared by all his doctors to play Sunday in the Jets game," Drew Rosenhaus, his agent, said Friday.

Gronkowski's return would be very good news for the Patriots, who have struggled on offense, and bad news for the New York Jets, who would have to find a way to stop the two-time Pro Bowl standout. He was questionable on the Patriots' injury report Friday for the fifth straight week, meaning they list his chances of playing Sunday at 50-50.

Gronkowski had offseason surgery on his back and broken left forearm. But he participated in every practice on a limited basis since the season began, and has watched as the Patriots opened 5-1.

His status for each game has drawn plenty of attention, with reporters surrounding his locker for his weekly media availability. He had shed little light on that, often saying he was taking it "day by day" and was eager to resume playing (see full story).

Falcons: White to miss first career game
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White will miss the first game of his nine-year career on Sunday.

The four-time Pro Bowl selection was one of three starters listed as out on Friday's injury report.

White, Atlanta's career-leading receiver, played the first five games with a sore left hamstring, catching only 14 passes for 129 yards. He hurt his right ankle in a Week 5 loss to the New York Jets and hasn't practiced since.

Atlanta (1-4) lost Pro Bowl wideout Julio Jones to season-ending foot surgery in the same game. Jones led the NFL in catches and ranked second in yards receiving at the time.

Running back Steven Jackson (hamstring) and left tackle Sam Baker (knee) will not play against Tampa Bay (0-5).

Starting middle linebacker Akeem Dent (knee) is questionable.

Titans: Locker practices, but no starter named
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jake Locker has passed his practice test, doing what the Titans wanted all week increasing his work each day.

Now the decision on who starts against San Francisco on Sunday rests with coaches, trainers and the quarterback himself.

"We haven't decided yet. We're not really leaning any way," Munchak said Friday after practice. "Jake is doing well. He did everything today we wanted him to do. Now, we'll spend some time with him and talk as an offense and decide what is the best thing to do for Sunday."

Munchak said the challenge now is deciding if Locker or Ryan Fitzpatrick starts. Locker will have a big say in the discussions, and Munchak said they need to finish up some talks and make a decision.

"We really want to get a feel for what he feels he can do well and what his limitations may or may not be," Munchak said of Locker. "I thought on the field he handled himself really well. He got a little more confidence every day, and I think both of them have gotten enough reps where either one of them could play and be ready to play on Sunday."

Locker sprained his right hip and knee Sept. 29 in a win over the Jets and has missed two games, both losses dropping the Titans to 3-3. Locker has to be mobile enough to protect himself against the 49ers (4-2). The Titans have a bye next week, which would give Locker more time to be healthier for their next game Nov. 3 at St. Louis (see full story).