FOXBORO -- There's no doubt Rob Gronkowski's presence on the practice field is a good thing.
"This is his first opportunity to be in pads, so he's definitely moving forward," head coach Bill Belichick acknowledged Monday.
The Patriots tight end hasn't traveled a smooth road of recovery this offseason. Not only was he forced to deal with third and fourth procedures on his injured forearm, but Gronkowski also required back surgery in June. His status for the 2013 season was still in question just two days ago as the team was deciding whether or not to start him on the physically unable to perform list.
But he's active. New England added Gronkowski to the 53-man roster and now the watch is on to see if he will indeed return to game action before those six weeks PUP would have afforded.
Belichick was asked if two straight days on the practice field can be deemed a significant step ahead.
"No," the coach said flatly, "just the next step."
No other details about Gronkowski's progress were revealed despite further prodding. Belichick tried to end the conversation more than once by labeling the tight end as "day-to-day." Eventually, he explained why he employs the phrase.
"We look at his situation the next day. If he's improved and able to move ahead, we'll move him ahead; if not, we keep him where he is. Sometimes, a guy may step back a little bit, and then move ahead. It just depends on each individual player's situation what his progress is.
"There's no straight line formula for it," he continued with some exasperation. "We take it day-to-day. I don't know any other way to do it. I don't know how he's going to be feeling in two days -- or any other play. It's not about him, it's about every player that's coming back from injury. Nobody has a crystal ball."