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Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski downgraded to doubtful vs. Bears

The Patriots downgraded tight end Rob Gronkowski to doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Bears after, per multiple reports, he didn’t fly with the team to Chicago on Saturday.

ESPN reported he was “highly unlikely” to play, though it said the Patriots would see if he felt better.

Gronkowski was limited in practice all week with ankle problems, but a back injury was added to the injury report Friday. He has battled a bad back regularly over the years.

Still, Saturday’s development was surprising. Gronkowski was one of 10 Patriots players listed as questionable for the game a day earlier.

Rob Gronkowski makes a catch against Josh Shaw on Oct. 14 in Foxborough, Mass. Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Earlier in the week, Gronkowski said the Bears’ defense was dangerous despite its struggles against the Dolphins.

“I mean, they were always attacking the ball still and going for it, trying to create turnovers,” he said. “It’s football, it happens once in a while, but we’re expecting to see the best coming up this Sunday. We’re expecting to see the best at Soldier Field — the crowd, the team. It’s going to be a good football atmosphere, and it’s going to be fun.”

Bears coach Matt Nagy called Gronkowski’s blocking and receiving prowess unique earlier this week.

“He’s such a big weapon,” he said. “He’s smart, him and Tom [Brady], you can see how much they trust each other, obviously, in the red zone, as well.”