FOXBORO, MA. – SEPTEMBER 30: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots runs for a first down towards Torry McTyer #24 of the Miami Dolphins during the second quarter of a NFL game at Gillette Stadium on September 30, 2018 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/ Boston Herald)
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FOXBORO — Rob Gronkowski may not be available when the Patriots host the Colts on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.

Gronkowski, who left Sunday’s 38-7 win against the Dolphins with an ankle injury and did not return, was listed as a non-participant on yesterday’s “projected” practice report. All NFL teams are required to submit three practice reports each week. Because the Pats did not practice, the team issued a projection.

Although Gronkowski’s injury is not considered serious, according to multiple reports, the quick turnaround could prevent him from playing. This was the case a year ago when Gronk dealt with a quadriceps injury leading up to a Week 5 Thursday night game at Tampa Bay. Gronkowski was listed as questionable heading into that game and did not suit up.

The Pro Bowl tight end was the only Patriots player listed as a non-participant. Wide receiver Josh Gordon (hamstring), defensive tackle Adam Butler (knee), linebacker Elandon Roberts (calf), tight end Jacob Hollister (chest), cornerback Eric Rowe (groin), defensive tackle Danny Shelton (elbow), defensive end Geneo Grissom (ankle) and linebacker Brandon King would be limited in practice. Roberts and Butler sustained injuries on Sunday.

For the Colts, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (chest/hamstring) was one of eight players listed as non-participants in their report.

Hightower reads, reacts

Like many players on the Patriot defense, it was a rough start to the season for Dont’a Hightower.

He looked more like himself Sunday, especially when he dropped Kenyan Drake at the line of scrimmage in the first quarter after bursting to the hole and fighting off a pulling guard.

It was a perfect example of a player reading the play and reacting instinctively, a subject Bill Belichick had a lot to say about yesterday.

“Sometimes, players, maybe they can’t even tell you how they know what the right thing to do is, they just know what the right thing to do is,” he said. “Sometimes they anticipate it. Sometimes it just comes to them just instinctively. Through my experience with players, sometimes they can’t even give you an answer. They know, but they just don’t know. . . . It just sort of looks a little different and that’s how they knew it was a screen or that’s how they knew it was a play-action pass or that’s how they knew it was something that was a little bit different.”

Whatever it boils down to, Hightower has it.

“The mental part of the game seems to come very easy for him, going between mike or sam or will or defensive end or a different position in pass rush on third down,” Belichick said. “Assignment-wise, all those come pretty easily for him, and athletically he has a great combination of size, power, pass rush, zone, man coverage.

“He’s done all those things for us. How does he know what to do? I’m sure it’s a combination of all those things, like it is with a lot of great players.”

No fan of this game

When it comes to respect in the locker room, there aren’t many players in Foxboro who’ve earned more of it than special teamer Matthew Slater.

As a longtime captain, Slater’s voice carries a lot of weight, and yesterday he used it to air a familiar complaint among players.

“We’ve really got to think about these Thursday night games moving forward from a player safety and health perspective,” Slater said. “I know it’s a good product and I know the fans enjoy it, but I think we’ve really got to give it a long, hard look.”

Slater joins a long list of current and former NFLers to take issue with the short week, including Drew Brees, Arian Foster and Richard Sherman, who once penned an article for the Players Tribune entitled “Why I Hate Thursday Night Football.”

Should the league only schedule teams for Thursday night the week after a bye? Slater didn’t sound too convinced by that idea.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Potentially. But I’m sure it’ll be visited here coming up soon.”