FOXBOROUGH — On Sunday, Rob Gronkowski disappointed the swarm of reporters near his locker after his first practice in months by saying he wasn’t going to be chatting that day, but he promised he would at some point this week.
True to his word, Wednesday Gronkowski did just that. Though the recovering Patriots tight end talked for more than six minutes, the bulk of his comments can be boiled down to two words: he’s progressing.
“Putting the pads on, just having them on, man, made me happy again,” Gronkowski said of returning to practice. “I love this game, definitely miss it, football, just going out there and practicing with my teammates. Miss doing the grind with my teammates, miss being out there with the coaches and everything, so it’s just awesome to be back out there with the team and focusing and getting things done.”
But asked about when he’ll play, Gronkowski didn’t give any detail.
“I approach every single day to the max of my ability, preparing every day to do the best I can. When my number’s called, that’s when I’ll play,” he said.
It has been about 10 weeks since Gronkowski underwent a mid-June diskectomy, aimed at relieving the pain of a herniated disk that bothered him last season. That surgery came after four operations on his left forearm, which he originally broke last Nov. 18.
“I’m making progress every week. Getting out there is another step forward,” he said. “You just have to take positive steps forward, and keep reevaluating every single day where I am.”
Asked if he’s had any setbacks during his most recent recovery, Gronkowski quickly answered, “Nope!”
The 24-year-old said he hasn’t been watching the calendar, keeping a specific date in mind for his return to a game, and the training staff and doctors haven’t either.
“It doesn’t matter what that says [that typical recovery for his procedure is 10 weeks], it just matters how your body feels, how the rehab program is going, and how you’re progressing every day,” he said. “I just look forward to every day and I’m not counting by when my surgery was or ‘that day I’m coming back.’ I don’t work like that, the trainers don’t work like that, we just work going day by day.”
Gronkowski did not want to reflect on the past several months and how he dealt with them mentally and emotionally, saying, “I mean, it was difficult, but I’m past that all. Today’s a new day and the only thing I can do is look forward. I’m not thinking about the past anymore; that’s all in the past and the only thing I can do now is improve.”
He was asked about rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld and Sudfeld’s recent comment that Gronkowski has been offering him tips, and whether that makes Gronkowski, headed into his fourth season, feel like the old veteran.
“Ah, man — he’s older than me!” Gronkowski said, laughing at the fact that Sudfeld is 27 days older than him. “But yeah, he’s a good guy and it’s great to have him. He’s a hard worker and a good player; looking forward to getting out there with him and the rest of the team. It’s just going to be a lot of fun.”Shalise Manza Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.