New England

Antonio Brown and Gronk, the Patriots' Pipe Dream

Imagine if "The Apology" took on a meaning other than an episode from the final season of Seinfeld?

If Antonio Brown's public apology to Patriots owner Robert Kraft via Instagram on Tuesday became the catalyst for the mercurial wide receiver's return to Foxboro, less than three months after he was granted his unceremonious release?

"You'd have to talk to Robert about that," Bill Belichick said at his press conference on Wednesday morning. "I mean, every week you guys ask me about a player who's not on our team and every week it's going to be the same answer."

Wouldn't it be something if Brown returned to the Patriots, though, after he fired off a since-deleted tweet, "Kraft got caught in the parlor AB speculations fired different strokes different folks clearly."

"I don't put much thought into it," Tom Brady said of Brown's apology. "It's his choice, good for him."

"It's good he's in a place of apology, but I really don't know what to say about it," Jason McCourty added.

James White echoed McCourty's sentiments, adding he'd welcome Brown back, but added "it's not my choice."

Well, what if Brown's return wasn't the only earth-shattering transaction conducted by the Patriots down the stretch?

What if Rob Gronkowski can pull double duty at Super Bowl LIV? He announced on Tuesday that he'll be hosting a beachfront bash the night before the Super Bowl in Miami, but can Gronk return to the Patriots prior to the Nov. 30 deadline to be eligible to play that weekend as well?

This is a pipe dream, one that has a microscopic chance of coming to fruition. Call it less than one tenth of one percent of a chance of happening.

Don't pretend, however, that the Patriots couldn't use the talents of Gronk and/or Antonio Brown to ensure they'll be able to slip over to "Gronk Beach" following a walkthrough on Saturday morning the day before the big game.

With news that neither Mohamed Sanu (ankle) nor Phillip Dorsett (concussion) didn't participate in Wednesday's practice, the levee could be ready to break on the paper-thin depth chart New England has assembled among its pass catchers. Dorsett, for what it's worth, was seen during the portion of practice available to the media, as well as in the locker room on Wednesday afternoon after suffering a head injury against the Eagles.

Still, if neither Sanu nor Dorsett were to miss a significant amount of time, do the Patriots need Antonio Brown? There's a difference between having a need and being a luxury. Bringing him back at this point could have ramifications beyond merely stunting the development of N'Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers.

What sort of message would it send to the locker room if Brown were brought back after the way he conducted himself in his 11-day stay in New England in September?

Brown, who remains embroiled in an investigation into a sexual assault he allegedly committed while a member of the Steelers in 2017 and 2018, would be subject to the commissioner's exempt list if he were to sign with the Patriots — or any NFL team.

Despite the serious allegations surrounding Brown, which he denies, he appeared to have been in the clear — at least for this season — in avoiding league discipline, until he allegedly threatened another woman accusing him of sexual misconduct.

Gronk, meanwhile, has been toying with Patriots fans when it comes to a potential comeback ever since announcing his retirement in the first place in March.

Arguably the greatest tight end to ever play the game, it's hard to see any way in which a comeback for Gronk could be a negative. Ben Watson, 38, would slip behind Gronk on the depth chart, while at least one of Matt LaCosse or Ryan Izzo would likely be shown the door. No harm, no foul there, as both LaCosse and Izzo have battled injuries all year and have been ineffective when they have managed to crack the lineup.

New England's optimal skill position set would consist of Brown, Sanu and Julian Edelman at wide receiver, with Gronk at tight end and James White in the backfield. That wouldn't just be the greatest grouping in the NFL, that would perhaps rival what the Patriots threw out there in 2007 with Randy Moss and Wes Welker.

There would be no more mopey Tom Brady press conferences akin to what transpired on Sunday after a 17-10 win against the Eagles, in which New England's only touchdown was scored on a trick play.

Good luck figuring out who to double cover in that lineup. Swap out Sanu for Dorsett on certain plays, give Gronk a breather with the reliable Watson — a member of that 2007 team, lest we forget — and spell White with the shifty Rex Burkhead on occasion.

If Sony Michel can fix whatever's ailing him, and the Patriots actually had a running game to go along with all of this, then seriously, just hand over the Lombardi Trophy now.

New England remains well-positioned to take home its seventh championship of the Brady-Belichick era, regardless of any far-fetched fantasies involving Brown or Gronk.

At this point, wouldn't it be more satisfying to win it all without either of them?

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