FOXBOROUGH — Tom Brady was back at Patriots practice Thursday morning after the quarterback missed Wednesday’s session.
Brady, who has been dealing with an Achilles’ tendon injury, has missed Wednesday practices two weeks in a row. Late last season, he also missed a few Wednesday practices — normally the full-padded workouts that are the most physical of the week — as the blows built up and he needed extra rest to stay fresh for games.
Brady was limited Thursday, when the Patriots held a walkthrough in sweats. He wasn’t the only player to make his return. Offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle (ankle) and linebacker Trevor Reilly (concussion) were also back, though limited.
Both Waddle and Reilly missed practice Wednesday, though Reilly was spotted heading to a separate field with receiver Chris Hogan while other Patriots were beginning their regular work.
Hogan (shoulder) and right tackle Marcus Cannon (ankle) remained absent, making it appear unlikely that either will be available Sunday. Waddle’s return was a positive sign, as he had proven himself to be an able fill-in for Cannon.
Wide receiver Danny Amendola (knee), center David Andrews (illness), linebacker Marquis Flowers (knee), defensive lineman Trey Flowers (rib), cornerback Eric Rowe (groin), linebacker Kyle Van Noy (calf), and wide receiver Matthew Slater (hamstring) were all limited, as they were for Wednesday’s practice.
It’s all about the (blue) cheese
Rob Gronkowski’s memories of Ralph Wilson Stadium, now called New Era Field, go back far beyond his playing days, though his recent memories have been mostly positive.
In six career games in Buffalo, Gronkowski has accumulated 583 yards and scored seven touchdowns. Brady has a passer rating of 129.7 throwing to the Amherst, N.Y., boy in Orchard Park.
But Gronkowski has been enjoying Bills games for far longer. The tight end recalled making it to the final round of a Punt, Pass, and Kick competition when he was about 10 years old, and the final round of the competition was held at halftime of a game against none other than the Patriots.
“I threw the ball pretty far as a little kid and got some roars from the crowd,” said Gronkowski, although he said he didn’t win the contest. “So, I know they liked me at one point in my career.”
Gronkowski is plenty familiar with Bills Mafia, the nickname for the rowdy Buffalo fan base.
“They’re wild, for sure,” Gronkowski said. “I grew up there. I could explain myself a little bit in my early 20s, if that makes sense. I think it does.”
Gronkowski has never jumped through a table at a Bills tailgate, though, a tradition among Bills fans.
“Not at a tailgate, but I’ve been through tables before, for sure,” Gronkowski said.
If not at a tailgate, then where?
“Like at family get-togethers,” Gronkowski answered. “I’ve definitely been, growing up, through tables.”
The Gronkowskis go big for family reunions, as they did last season. It’s not clear whether there was any table-jumping back at the homestead beforehand, but a large group of Gronks was on hand for the Patriots’ 41-25 win in Orchard Park last season. Gronkowski’s little brother Glenn, a fullback then on the Patriots practice squad, had to fly commercial to join his big brother and family for that game.
Gronkowski also said that he and his family have their own way of executing another Buffalo staple: wings. Of the two iconic Buffalo wing spots, Gronkowski thinks Anchor Bar is good but touristy, and he’s never been to Duff’s even though he drives by it all the time.
Gronkowski is pickier about the condiments that come with his wings than their supplier, though.
“You can go anywhere for wings there,” Gronkowski said. “I usually go to Amherst Ale House. That’s right down the street from where I grew up, but you can go anywhere. What’s key is having that blue cheese. Buffalo blue cheese, Rootie’s Blue Cheese — you’ve got to have that or else you don’t have wings.”
Only the coaches get wings on Saturday night before the game, Gronkowski said, and they don’t share. He has to wait until Sunday night to indulge.
“After the game, I dip in all the blue cheese,” Gronkowski said. “Rootie’s Blue Cheese — you’ve got to try it. That’s the one.”
Kudos for Brady
Brady was named AFC Offensive Player of the Month for November after leading the Patriots to a 3-0 record over the course of the month and throwing at least three touchdown passes in all three games.
Brady went 73 of 99 for 833 yards and 10 touchdowns in November, when his 73.7 completion percentage was the best in the NFL. Brady threw one interception in the month.
Brady extended his record number of conference player of the month awards to 10. Peyton Manning is second with eight.