Time will tell if tight end Rob Gronkowski returns from his offseason surgical procedures and plays for the first time this season Sunday against Tampa Bay. He’s practiced during the week but he still missed the first two games while continuing his recovery from surgeries on his back and forearm.

According to a league source Gronkowski is healthy enough to play but the Patriots want to get him more practice time before suiting him up in a game. For that reason the source said the Patriots are leaning toward keeping Gronkowski out of Sunday’s home game with the Buccaneers.

Whenever Gronkowski’s return comes Josh McDaniels the Patriots’ offensive coordinator knows what kind of impact it will have.

“I think any time you have a player that can make the kind of impact that Rob has made in the past if you have a player like that back it has to affect your plan and hopefully only in a positive manner” McDaniels said Tuesday during the Patriots’ weekly coaches’ conference call. “I don’t know if it would affect the groupings that we would use or whether we would use a certain tempo or not I don’t know if that would impact it. But you’d like to have a guy like that on the field as much as you can if he’s ready and able to contribute the way that Rob has always been able to.”

Gronkowski has been listed as questionable before each of the first two games even though he’s practiced. It seems evident that his appearance in a game is getting closer an addition that would certainly help a struggling offense.

“Our game plan is going to be set up for the opponent and it’s hopefully going to be set up in such a way that we can take advantage of some opportunities” McDaniels said. “The ones that are available at the tight end position would certainly have application for Rob if he happened to play whenever that is.”