By BARRY WILNER
AP Pro Football Writer
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski will miss his return trip to New England because of a rib injury.
Gronkowski was downgraded to out by the team and did not travel with the Super Bowl champions for Sunday night’s anticipated matchup with the Patriots. Gronkowski was listed as doubtful on Friday.
It’s the first game Gronkowski will miss since he came out of retirement to play alongside Tom Brady with the Buccaneers.
Gronkowski had 45 receptions for 623 yards and seven touchdowns in his first season with Tampa Bay, and then caught four more TD passes from Brady during the team’s 2-1 start this year.
Gronkowski, 32, was selected by New England in the second round of the 2010 draft and spent his first nine seasons with the Patriots, developing into one of the NFL’s best tight ends. Forming a lasting connection with Brady, Gronkowski had 521 catches for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns with New England.
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