FOXBOROUGH — Tight end Rob Gronkowski stopped short of declaring himself ready to play in a game for the Patriots, but said he has progressed significantly since last week.
Gronkowski has yet to play this season, still recovering from offseason surgeries on his back and forearm. He has practiced the past two weeks — always in a limited basis — but was ruled inactive against the Bills and Jets.
The Patriots face the Buccaneers Sunday at Gillette Stadium. Will Gronkowski be on the field?
“So far, there’s really nothing new to report. I’m just day-to-day and progressing every week,” Gronkowski said. “I’m just improving every week, feeling good every week. When everyone collaborates together and I feel ready to go, that’s when it will be.”
Coach Bill Belichick, when asked how Gronkowski has looked, said the tight end has looked great in the meeting room. That drew a laugh from Gronkowski.
“In the meeting rooms? Definitely, I’ve been there every single day,” Gronkowski said. “You’ve got to stay up mentally on your game, obviously, with this offense, how Tom [Brady] runs it, how [offensive coordinator] Josh [McDaniels] presents everything to us, how he wants it run on the field.”
Gronkowski hasn’t played since the first playoff game last season, when he reinjured his forearm against the Texans. But he feels his return will come soon.
“I definitely feel closer, I’m feeling way closer to playing,” he said. “It feels good to be out on the field with your teammates, running around, catching balls from Tom, being with the tight ends again and doing drills with them. I’m having a blast out there.”
Goldson suspension overturned
The NFL may not like the reckless way Tampa Bay safety Dashon Goldson plays, but he has a fan in Brady.
Brady called the 29-year-old “one of my favorite players” as he talked about the Buccaneers’ secondary.
“Because if I were a safety, I would try to play like him,” Brady explained. “He’s a great player. I played against him last year, I always kind of watched him as a 49er. He got his opportunity there after a few years in San Francisco and took advantage of his opportunity.”
A fourth-round draft pick of the 49ers in 2007, Goldson blossomed into a Pro Bowler in 2011 and 2012, and was a first-team All-Pro last season.
“He was a big part of the reason why that [San Francisco] defense was so good last year and now he’s playing for Tampa. He’s already made a big impact. He’s a very good player, and practicing against him you sort of see why.”
Brady isn’t the only Patriot who likes Goldson’s game; Belichick likes him as well: Goldson was courted heavily by the team coming off the lockout in 2011, and has said the Patriots talked to him again earlier this year, before he signed a five-year, $41.25 million deal with Tampa Bay.
But Brady’s admiration for Goldson as a player has its limits. He joked that the NFL clearly didn’t ask his opinion when deciding on Goldson’s one-game suspension appeal, which was overturned Wednesday. Had the suspension been upheld, Goldson would not have been able to play against New England.
The appeals officers who heard Goldson’s case, jointly hired and paid by the NFL and NFL Players’ Association, decided against suspension and instead fined him $100,000 for his hit on the Saints’ Darren Sproles in Week 2. Goldson was also fined $30,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on the Jets’ Jeff Cumberland after Week 1.
Just another game
He spent all his time in the NFL with Tampa Bay before being traded to the Patriots last November. But Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers won’t hold any special meaning for Aqib Talib.
“No, it’s a game, No. 3 game, Week 3 game, next game, most important game,” Talib said Wednesday after practice.
Talib spent more than four seasons with the Buccaneers, intercepting 18 passes. He had his first two picks of this season against the Jets, including one in the final minute that prompted a fight after he was hit low by Nick Mangold while running out of bounds. Talib missed practice Monday to tend to a family matter, but returned to the field Wednesday.
His former teammates are coming here 0-2, with reports that some players aren’t on the same page with coach Greg Schiano and his disciplined approach. Talib was asked about those reports, but wouldn’t bite, in his own unique way.
“I play for the Patriots, baby, we good,” Talib said. “We’re good over here.”
Schiano acknowledged to local reporters on Wednesday that he met with cornerback Darrelle Revis, one of the players reportedly unhappy. But in a teleconference with members of the New England media, Schiano made it sound like all was well in his locker room.
“I’m not concerned with what’s happening outside the building. The only thing that I concern myself with is our locker room and our coaches’ offices and meeting rooms. And they’re all good,” Schiano said. “We’re very frustrated about our start, our won-loss record, but as far as guys working together and believing and all those things, I feel very, very confident about our organization.”
So, Schiano’s team is united?
“Without a doubt.”
Fanene suit dropped
The grievance filed in July by the NFL Players Association on behalf of Jonathan Fanene against the Patriots and team doctor Thomas Gill has been dropped, according to a league source. It stemmed from last season, when the Patriots signed Fanene, a free agent defensive lineman, then released him before the season, citing a “failure to disclose physical condition.” The source said Fanene wasn’t truthful about his physical status when he joined the team . . . Receiver Matthew Slater and cornerback Marquice Cole were the only players to miss Wednesday’s practice. Slater has a wrist injury, while Cole was excused to head home for the birth of his child. In addition to Gronkowski, the other six players who were limited were receiver Danny Amendola (groin), running backs Brandon Bolden (knee) and Leon Washington (thigh), offensive linemen Dan Connolly (finger) and Will Svitek (knee), and defensive back Nate Ebner (ankle). Amendola isn’t expected to play Sunday, and didn’t look close to being ready for a game in the brief portion of practice made accessible to the media. He was running at less than full speed and not cutting sharply in receiver drills . . . Appearing on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher & Rich” Wednesday morning, former Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light disputed a comment attributed to him regarding former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernadez. Over the summer, the Dayton Daily News quoted Light as saying, “I never talk about other guys, but I will say I have never embraced — never believed in — anything Aaron Hernandez stood for.” In the radio interview, Light claimed he never said that. “I don’t comment on that stuff, and I never will,” he said. “It’s not my place.”