FOXBOROUGH -- Tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski were back at Patriots’ practice Thursday, with Hernandez returning for the first time since suffering an ankle injury Sept. 16 against Arizona. In the portion of practice that was made available to the media, Hernandez was spotted taking part in conditioning drills, then ran some routes and caught a few passes.
Players were in shorts and shells on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. Thursdays are usually a full-pads practice for the Patriots, but the number of times teams can hold those kinds of practices are limited, per the collective bargaining agreement.
It’s too early to tell if Hernandez will be healthy enough to play on Sunday, but getting him back would certainly help against the Broncos. He’s been limited to just one game (plus three plays against Arizona), catching six balls for 59 yards in the season-opening win at Tennessee.
Gronkowski missed Wednesday’s practice with a hip injury, something that had also been on last week’s injury report, but he played in Sunday’s win at Buffalo, catching five passes for 104 yards and a touchdown.
Cornerback Ras-I Dowling was one of three players who were not spotted at practice, joining receiver Julian Edelman and safety Steve Gregory. Dowling played sparingly on Sunday at Buffalo, but was hampered by injuries as a rookie last year, spending the bulk of the season on injured reserve.