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Saturday January 21, 2017
Posted: Jul 23, 2014

“Welcome to football season”

In The Huddle

With those four words, Bill Belichick opened the New England Patriots 2014 season Wednesday afternoon.

Yes, training camp doesn't officially open until Thursday with a practice at 9:15 a.m. But as Belichick noted in his early-morning press conference, players have been floating around Gillette Stadium for days, with many already completing their conditioning test.

Perhaps the biggest news to come out of Belichick's time with the media: Rob Gronkowski is ready to go.

The Patriots talented tight end is coming off reconstructive surgery of his right knee, a devasting injury he suffered last Dec. 8. And while Gronkowski has said he's ready to play all 16 games this season - after only 14 the last two, only five last year - Belichick's comments Wednesday were the first time anyone else addressed the situation.

Asked if Gronkowski could still be placed on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list before Thursday, Belichick replied that "he would be ineligible to do that.''

Asked why, Belichick said, "because he's been cleared to play.''

Great news for quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots and their fans. New England's offense performs at a different level when he's on the field.

"Well, it's a positive,'' said right guard Logan Mankins, of Gronkowski's return. "We were all hoping Gronk would have a good recovery and so far he has. We'll just see where he is, how good he is right now. It's great to have him out there. He's a dynamic blocker.

"He does a great job in the blocking and he's a big target for Tom (Brady) to the the ball to and he gets open. Anytime you can have Gronk on the field, it's great.''

Gronkowski took to Twitter Wednesday afternoon to let everyone know how he felt:  "Super excited to be back on the practice field with my teammates! Gotta keep on working if ya know what I mean!''

It will be interesting to see exactly how much Gronkowski actually practices in the upcoming weeks. Will he be on the field all the time, or eased in slowly?

We'll find out soon enough.


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