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Monday, 02 September 2013 01:53

New England Patriots' Rob Gronkowski in full pads at practice

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 Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Good news is present for New England Patriots fans and the news involves a key piece of the offense. Tight end Rob Gronkowski was at practice today in full pads for the first time since undergoing multiple forearm surgeries and one surgery on his back this offseason.

It is still not realistic to expect Gronkowski to be ready when the Patriots open up their season against the Buffalo Bills or for the Patriots’ home-opener against the New York Jets on September 12, but just his presence on the field signals progress in his rehab, and that he may be ready to transition from focusing specifically on rehab to football-specific drills.

In the 15 minutes that reporters were present at practice, Gronkowski went through running drills as the team ran the length of the field multiple times, and then he took part in an agility drill that involves players stepping over bags while a coach throws them the football. In addition, he also took part in a blocking drill in which he worked on his technique by getting out of his stance and hitting a blocking pad held by a coach.

Gronkowski did not speak to the media however, telling reporters that he would speak to them later in the week.

The 24-year-old did not go through the entire practice according to ESPN, but was part of a group that included tight ends Michael Hoomanawanui and Zach Sudfeld as well as fullback James Develin. He was the fourth player from that group to go through the drills. Hoomanawanui spoke about Gronkowski’s presence at practice.

"Gronk is obviously a big part of our team," he said. "He is a great football player. He's a great guy to be around. There are no real highs and lows with Rob; all the stuff he's gone through you would kind of think it would be human nature to see that. He's taken his punches and he always seems to stay up high. To see that, and be around, I think it lifts everyone else's spirits, too. It's something I admire about him, not only as a football player but as a person."

The Patriots kept Gronkowski on the 53-man active roster at Saturday’s deadline after he spent all of training camp on the active/physically unable to perform list. Had he been put on the reserve/ physically unable to perform list, the tight end could not have played or practiced for the first six weeks of the regular season.