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PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK

Rob Gronkowski is the only Patriot missing from practice

The Patriots had a shells-and-sweats workout Wednesday, but there was one big absence.
The Patriots had a shells-and-sweats workout Wednesday, but there was one big absence.steven senne/AP/Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH — With Tupac’s “California Love” blaring from the speakers at the start of Wednesday’s practice, the Patriots were clearly focused on their upcoming trip to San Francisco.

The big question is whether or not their big tight end, Rob Gronkowski, will make the trip to the West Coast. Gronkowski, who has 25 catches for 540 yards and 3 touchdowns, was the lone player missing from Wednesday’s shells-and-sweats workout.

Gronkowski suffered an unspecified chest injury after taking a big hit from Seattle safety Earl Thomas in Sunday’s loss at Gillette Stadium.

Gronkowski briefly left the game — he said the hit “just knocked the wind out of me a little bit” — returned and made a 26-yard catch that set up a potential game-tying touchdown. New England’s final play of the game was a fade pass that bounced off Gronkowski’s fingertips.

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The perennial All-Pro missed the first two games of the season with a hamstring injury suffered during training camp. He returned to game action in Week 3 against the Texans but didn’t look like his usual self until Week 5 in Cleveland.

The timetable to get Gronkowski ready to play this week is a bit accelerated, as the Patriots will depart for California on Friday, a day earlier than normal.

Quarterback Tom Brady, who suffered a right quad injury Sunday on a hit from safety Kam Chancellor but didn’t miss any time, was at practice and looked no worse for the wear.

Teammates talked about the toughness of both players to stay in the game.

“They’re tough guys. It motivates you,’’ said receiver Julian Edelman. “They’re leaders on our team, so anytime you see that — you see a guy going out there and pushing something aside and playing through something whatever it is — your respect level goes higher and higher for him.

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“It’s expected of those guys, though. [They’ve done it] time in and time out.’’

Fellow receiver Danny Amendola had similar sentiments.

“It’s awesome, tough guys, man,’’ he said. “That’s why we strap it up and why we play. It’s such a physical game. That’s why we love to play, that’s why fans love to watch.

“To see them get up and keep fighting, it shows you how competitive they are, shows what they’re made of, and it juices the rest of the team up, too.’’

When Bill Belichick was asked about Gronkowski’s physical and mental toughness during his seven years as a Patriot, the coach said, “It’s good. Very good.’’

Brady was not listed on the injury report but four players were categorized as limited: tight end Martellus Bennett (ankle), defensive tackle Alan Branch (back), and receivers Edelman (foot) and Chris Hogan (back).

Brady reminisces

Brady had a chance to reminisce about his California childhood with his hometown media on a conference call Wednesday.

Brady said he’s been asked “more than ever” to arrange tickets for friends and family to see him play in the Bay Area for the first time in his career. Levi’s Stadium, where the 49ers now play, is one of four active NFL stadiums Brady has not played in.

“Last time we had the chance in 2008, I had everything arranged and set up before the season for my family and friends, and then I got hurt,” Brady said. “So it is [shocking], it is. It will be a lot of fun. I’ve got a lot of people coming to the game and it will just be a great environment.”

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Brady grew up rooting for Joe Montana and Steve Young, but he’s not sure if there are any 49er fans left in his family.

“I don’t know. We don’t talk about the 49ers anymore. That was all we used to ever talk about,” he said.

Brady saw some big moments in Candlestick Park as a kid, including “The Catch.”

“I think 4 years old and my parents brought me. I cried — I wanted one of those foam fingers and I cried the entire first half,” Brady said. “Finally, my dad bought me one to shut me up for the second half. I think I have a picture of it. It was just a great — I remember we were on the opposite side of the stadium, and I started crying when everyone jumped up and screamed at the end when Dwight [Clark] made the catch. I still have those memories.”

Brady was also asked about some current news, namely his new Footlocker commercial in which he pokes fun at the Deflategate scandal. Brady said he wasn’t quite sure why he signed up for it.

“I don’t know exactly what was going through my mind when I made the decision,” he said.

“I’ve had a lot of different opportunities over the years and some I’ve chosen to do, and some I haven’t. I’ve been in a very fortunate position to be able to choose the things that I do. I had a lot of free time on my hands at the beginning of the year, so I had to find ways to fill it.”

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Dual threat, again

For the third straight game, the Patriots will face a dual-threat quarterback. San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick is an exceptional athlete, one that New England defensive end Chris Long said “can really beat you with his arm or his legs.’’

In Week 8, the Patriots faced Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor and last week, Seattle’s Russell Wilson was the foe.

“They’re all different but certainly there are some common denominators there,’’ said Belchick.

The key when facing those types of quarterbacks is balancing aggression with containment.

“It’s a thin line,’’ said Long. “Your job turns from pass rusher purely to a piece of the puzzle rather that doing too much yourself. You try to do too much yourself against a guy like Colin, he’s really going to hurt you. So you have to kind of dial it down a little bit.’’

Long made it clear that dialing it down is not his favorite strategy.

“It’s not as fun as pinning your ears back, but it’s part of your job,’’ he said.

Going places

Long said he doesn’t put much stock in the perception that East Coast teams struggle when they go to the West Coast and vice versa. In fact, said Long, he rather enjoys the long trips. “When we touch down, wherever we touch down, I try to just adjust my body clock to wherever we are,’’ he said. “And you know, get your rest all week and hydrate, that’s important. You can’t freak out about traveling a little bit. It’s fun to travel as a team. Gives us an opportunity to spend some more time together and mesh some more.’’

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A friends episode

During his morning press conference, Belichick mentioned his friendship with 49ers coach Chip Kelly. “I think everybody knows how much respect I have for him,’’ said Belichick. Later on, in his conference call with the New England media, Kelly, a New Hampshire native, confirmed the tight relationship. “We’re Facebook friends,’’ he quipped . . . There was a Gronkowski sighting at practice, as the Patriots signed fullback Glenn Gronkowski for his third stint on the practice squad this season. He takes the spot of tight end Kennard Backman, who was released Tuesday after a three-day stay . . . The Patriots are 1-4 all-time at San Francisco, their lone win coming in 2008 when Matt Cassel led them to a 30-21 decision . . . The 49ers have two former Patriots — receiver Chris Harper and defensive tackle Chris Jones — on their roster.

Video: Patriots-49ers preview


Globe correspondent Nora Princiotti contributed, Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com