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Rob Gronkowski apologizes for video comments

Coach Bill Belichick is either pleading his case or making his point at Friday’s practice.
Coach Bill Belichick is either pleading his case or making his point at Friday’s practice.(jonathan wiggs/globe staff)

FOXBOROUGH — Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski apologized Friday for comments he made that were picked up on a cellphone video and interpreted by some as racially insensitive.

On the clip, Gronkowski, speaking into a microphone, is heard calling for an Asian male named Joe, seen wearing Gronkowski’s No. 87 jersey, to come out to the dance floor at Bar Louie, an establishment at Patriot Place. The assembled crowd quickly joins in, with the group chanting, “Joe! Joe! Joe!”

Gronkowski knows the man, and both men gave Patriots officials an account of what the video clip did not pick up: That Gronkowski told the man he was going to call him out to the dance floor, and that the man responded to Gronkowski that he can’t dance, but he can cook fried rice, which is what Gronkowski is heard saying on the clip: “He told me he could only cook fried rice!” Later in the clip, Gronkowski jokingly referred to the man as “Leslie Chow,” a character from “The Hangover” movie.

Speaking with local media for the first time this week after practice, Gronkowski addressed the video clip only after he was asked about it, and whether he felt the need to explain.

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“Yes. I feel bad, personally I feel bad,” Gronkowski said. “I talked to Joe, and he assured me he took no offense in any way. I know others did, and I apologize to those who took offense.”

Asked if Joe was the Asian male who appeared in the video, Gronkowski said yes.

“He’s a good guy, he’s a friend of mine, he’s a good dude,” Gronkowski said.

That’s the extent to which Gronkowski commented on the video clip. When he was pressed on it, or whether he gets tired of seeing these videos pop up, Gronkowski answered, “I’m just here to talk about the Carolina Panthers now.” He had the same answer when a question came up linking him to the upcoming “Entourage” movie, which he reportedly has agreed to appear in. There was one additional comment from Gronkowski about his involvement in the movie, though: “That’s pretty cool.”

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Admiration society

Five straight wins have pushed the Panthers into the NFC playoff mix and added an extra layer of hype to Monday’s visit by the Patriots. But to hear Bill Belichick tell it, the Panthers are even better than their 6-3 record.

“They lost the Buffalo game on the last play and could have easily won that one, and they’re ahead of Seattle, 7-6, until midway in the fourth quarter — that’s a pretty good football team — they get beat on a long pass play, then they drive the ball all the way down the field and they fumble the ball at the 5-yard-line going in to win. Those two games they could have very easily won,” Belichick said. “They could easily have eight wins, nine wins here.”

Carolina opened 0-2, losing the opener to Seattle at home, 12-7, then falling at Buffalo, 24-23. Against the Seahawks, Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams fumbled at the Seattle 8-yard-line with five minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Buffalo scored the game-winning touchdown with two seconds left.

Since then, the Panthers have won six of seven, a 22-6 loss at Arizona the exception. During their five-game win streak, they’ve done much of it with defense. Carolina has held their last five opponents to 10, 15, 13, 10, and 9 points.

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The offense has been pretty strong during the streak, too, with Sunday’s 10-9 win at San Francisco snapping four straight games in which the Panthers scored at least 30 points. Quarterback Cam Newton is the face of the Carolina offense, and simulating him in practice this week is proving to be difficult.

“I don’t know if there’s any other team in the league that can simulate Cam Newton,” Belichick said. “He’s big, he’s fast, very athletic guy. I think our quarterbacks can throw, but they can’t run like Cam can.”

We hardly knew ye

Before ever getting an opportunity to play in a game with the Patriots, receiver LaQuan Williams was released. He signed Nov. 5, two days after the Patriots’ most recent game, a win over Pittsburgh.

A Baltimore Sun report this week said Williams is facing a civil lawsuit stemming from an alleged altercation in June. Williams had played for the Ravens the past two seasons, and was released Sept. 6. His release leaves the Patriots with 52 players on the active roster, one under the maximum. The Patriots could make room for running back Shane Vereen, who has been out with a broken wrist since Week 1. Vereen is still on the injured reserve list with a designation to return, and is eligible to play in Monday’s game. He has practiced all week.

Safety Steve Gregory wasn’t spotted at practice. Gregory broke his thumb against the Steelers, and missed practices Tuesday and Thursday, as well. His availability for Monday’s game is in serious doubt; the team could announce as early as Saturday that Gregory won’t play.

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There were no changes from Thursday to the Patriots’ injury report. In addition to Gregory, six players were limited: cornerbacks Kyle Arrington, Alfonzo Dennard, and Aqib Talib, running back Brandon Bolden, Gronkowski, and running back Leon Washington.


Michael Whitmer can be reached at mwhitmer@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.