Mesko optimistic about playing Sunday

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Mesko optimistic about playing Sunday

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn
FOXBORO New England Patriots punter Zelton Mesko is feeling a lot better now than he did on Sunday when a teammate was pushed into his leg in the third quarter of New England's 35-21 win.

Feeling better is one thing.

Good enough to play?

You can file that one under 'wait-and-see' as the Patriots put the finishing touches on their preparation for Sunday's game at Buffalo.

Mesko was limited in practice on Friday, but the Patriots say he's questionable for Sunday's game.

He may not have the high profile position of quarterback or star receiver, but his value to the Patriots can not be overlooked.

New England faces a Buffalo Bills squad that has the highest-scoring offense (39.5 points per game) in the league, blending an efficient spread offense that's equally challenging on the ground or through the air.

Dealing with a team that explosive, the battle for field position becomes even more vital to success.

That's where Mesko comes in.

Although he's only averaging 39.5 yards on six punts, the Patriots understand all too well the impact he can make on a game.

And while it's still unclear if he'll play Sunday, the Pats would likely have kicker Stephen Gostkowski pull double-duty as the team's kicker and punter.

"I don't know," was Bill Belichick's response when asked about having Gostkowski handle both duties. "Whatever we do, we'll do what we think is best for the team. Whether that's to bring in a punter or not bring in a punter. However we handle the situation, we'll look at our options and try to pick the best one. The best one would be Zoltan doing what he's here to do. But if he can't do it, then we'll have to figure something else out."

The fact that Mesko did practice with the team on Friday was encouraging, but the ultimate decision on whether he'll play will come from the Belichick and medical team.

"I'm looking forward to helping the team out," Mesko said. "I'm going to do what it takes to get out there, and give it all I got."

Not only does Mesko punt for the Patriots, but he's also the holder for kicker Gostkowski.

After the injury occurred, Mesko did not kick again, but he did resume his role as holder.

"It was a weird feeling," he said of the injury. "I knew I had a duty to Steve and try to make it a go."

That was Mesko's mindset on Friday, which is similar to his approach to Sunday's game.

Feeling more like himself certainly bodes well for his chances of playing.

But Mesko, much like Patriots fans, will enter Sunday's game in 'wait-and-see' mode.

"I'm the eternal optimist," Mesko said.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn.

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

When it comes to projecting Rob Gronkowski's health, it's been best to steer clear of absolutes. There have been too many injuries, too many surgeries, to predict exactly how he'll feel months in advance. 

Still, in speaking with ESPN's Cari Champion recently, he said he had "no doubt" he'll be ready for Week 1 of the 2017 regular season. 

"Yes, for sure," he replied when asked if he expected to be good to go. 

Gronkowski also fielded a question about his long-term future in the sit-down. Lately it's been his coach Bill Belichick and his quarterback Tom  Brady who receiver all the life-after-football queries, but Gronkowski, 27, was asked how much longer he'd like to play. 

"I’m not really sure," he said. "I mean, I still love playing the game, and as of right now, I want to play as long as I possibly could play. My mindset is to keep on going."

Gronkowski landed on season-ending injured reserve in December after undergoing a procedure on his back -- his third back surgery since 2009. He's had nine reported surgeries -- including procedures on his knee, forearm and ankle -- since his final year at the University of Arizona. 

Gronkowski doesn't think Goodell can visit Gillette: 'The fans are nuts'

Gronkowski doesn't think Goodell can visit Gillette: 'The fans are nuts'

At this point, there may be no getting out of it.

Roger Goodell chose to visit Atlanta twice in as many weeks during its run to a Super Bowl, and in the process he opted not to check in at Gillette Stadium for either the Divisional Round or the AFC title game. But once the Patriots won Super Bowl LI, many felt as though Goodell would simply have no choice but to attend the 2017 regular-season opener in Foxboro. 

There are those who are itching to have him visit. There are those who hope he stays away. In an interview with ESPN, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski didn't put himself in either camp, but he seemed to suggest that it might not be the best idea for the commissioner to show his face in New England.

"To tell you the truth, I really don’t think so," Gronkowski said when asked if Goodell could come back to Foxboro any time soon. "The fans are nuts, they’re wild, and they have the Patriots’ back no matter what. They have Tom’s back. I’m telling you, he won’t get through the highway if the fans saw him. I don’t even think he can even land in the airport in Boston because Patriot fans are the best fans, they’re the most loyal fans. I’m telling you, they might just carry out Roger themselves. They couldn’t even get to the stadium in Foxboro if he landed in Boston."

Goodell hasn't been to Gillette Stadium since Deflategate, but he said during Super Bowl week that he'd be happy to visit if he was invited.