Patriots superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski returned to the practice field on Saturday for the first time since suffering a concussion in the AFC Championship game versus the Jaguars.
Gronkowski was hit in the helmet by Jaguars strong safety Barry Church during the first half. He did not return to action following the hit. The NFL has since fined Church approximately $24k. This is the second concussion suffered by Gronkowski this season.
Gronkowski was officially listed as “out” on Friday’s injury report. However, that only indicates that Gronkowski would NOT play if the game were played on January 28. Luckily, the game will be played on February 4. Although he returned to practice Saturday, Gronkowski is still not a lock to play in the big game on Sunday. An independent doctor will have to clear Gronkowski ahead of kickoff for him to be able to take the field for the Pats.
Gronkowski’s return to practice a week ahead of the game is a great sign for his potential to return in time for this showdown with the Eagles. The NFL’s concussion protocol allows players to take part in non-contact portions of practice before being officially cleared to play. According to Jim McBride of the Boston Globe, Gronkowski “looked in fine form as he went through stretching, jogging, and then catching passes during individual drills during the portion of full pads practice media were allowed to observe.”
Tom Brady was certainly happy to see his all-world tight end return to practice, albeit in a limited capacity. “It’s always great to have him out there,” Brady said Saturday. “He’s a great player, great person, a great teammate and a big part of what we do. So it obviously hurts when he’s not out there for a lot of reasons, but he’s doing the best he can do, and we’re all hopeful.”
The Return of the Gronk
The Patriots have had five players enter the concussion protocol this season. Four of them missed one game before returning the following week. Obviously, the road to recovery is different for every player, but the team is hoping Gronk follows a similar timeline. Gronkowski leads this team this season in receptions (69), receiving yards (1,084), and receiving touchdowns (8). Gronkowski’s return to the field, even within a limited capacity, will provide Brady with the crucial piece needed for another Super Bowl win. Gronkowski was once again present at practice on Sunday.
–Sam Puran is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. She covers the New England Patriots. Follow her on Twitter @S_Pats21