FOXBOROUGH — Tight end Rob Gronkowski participated in the Patriots’ full-pads practice Sunday, the first time he has done so since January.
Gronkowski broke his left forearm in November in a game against the Colts, and re-broke the arm in the playoffs against the Texans, just past the metal plate he’d had installed the first time.
Then there was a procedure to clean out an infection he developed in the arm, followed by a six-week course of antibiotics, followed by a fourth surgery, to reinstall the plate after the infection finally cleared.
In June, Gronkowski underwent back surgery to repair a herniated disk, the second such procedure he’s had.
Throughout the spring and training camp, Gronkowski was mostly an observer as his teammates practiced, though a week ago media saw him running for the first time, shuffling between cones, forward, backward, and sideways, as he caught short passes. Coach Bill Belichick said at the time that Gronkowski had been doing similar rehab work “every day” since training camp began.
It was clear when the Patriots did not move Gronkowski to the reserve/physically unable to perform list on cutdown day Saturday that they were confident he would be available to play in the coming month or so (placing him on reserve/PUP would have kept him on the shelf until after Week 6), but it was still unexpected to see him in full pads for practice.
The media access window for practice consisted of warm-ups and some positional drills. Gronkowski took part in a blocking drill with the other tight ends, though he seemed to be moving at half-speed and half-power compared with his teammates.
The Patriots are not required to submit a practice report until Wednesday, but it is likely that Gronkowski’s participation was limited and it’s unlikely he’ll play Sunday against the Bills.
In his practice jersey and pads it was easy to see that Gronkowski needs to regain some muscle in his upper body, understandable since all of his medical issues severely limited his ability to do any weight work.
In the locker room, Gronkowski smiled at reporters but said he wouldn’t be chatting, though he said he would talk this week.