SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

February 3, 2012

Ailing Gronkowski returns to practice


INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Rob Gronkowski practiced with the New England Patriots for the Super Bowl for the first time yesterday. Now coach Bill Belichick is waiting to see how the All-Pro tight end's injured ankle responds.

"He did some things. He didn't do everything," Belichick said. "We'll see how he is (Friday). I think that will be the big key."

Gronkowski participated on a limited basis and said it will be up to him to decide whether his high left ankle sprain will allow him to play Sunday against the New York Giants.

"I will make the final call," he said. "I listen to the trainer's advice, but it's how I feel. I'm just trying to get better. The trainer has helped me get to a place where I need to be."

He also said there are "a couple of options to explore" about how the ankle will be protected.

"I'm not even sure I'm going to wear anything (special)," Gronkowski said. "I'm taping it and testing things out every day to see how I feel."

He was injured Jan. 22 in the third quarter of the 23-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC championship game.

Gronkowski, who set an NFL single-season record for tight ends with 17 touchdown catches, took part during the second half of Thursday's nearly two-hour practice.

"It was fine," Belichick said. "It was a good test for him, too, at least. At least he was out here and did some things to see how it feels. We'll see how it goes."

Gronkowski wore a protective boot for a week before discarding it Monday. Teammates have expressed confidence that he will play against the Giants.

"I know he's going to be ready," tight end Aaron Hernandez said. "It's not like he broke anything or he can't walk on it. He got a little sprain and he's fine."

Ten other players participated in practice on a limited basis. The Patriots will taper off their activity at today's session.

"Obviously, we don't have much new going in, just kind of making sure everything we have going in we've got right," Belichick said.

The Patriots plan to hold a walk through on Saturday.

On Wednesday, Belichick took a half-hour break in practice to simulate the extended halftime for the Super Bowl.

"It's not perfect but it's the best we could do," Belichick said. "Practice, take a break, come back out and re-start."