FOXBORO -- Given all the injuries he's sustained, and all the time he's missed in his young career, you might think Rob Gronkowski would start to consider some different methods of self-preservation.
Maybe he could go down a second sooner if there's a defender attached to his leg? Maybe he could step out of bounds when a linebacker has him lined up?
If those thoughts crossed Gronkowski's mind as he spent the last six months rehabbing to be ready for training camp, he wasn't admitting to it on Friday.
"Nah I ain't changing that one bit, man," he said. "I'm gonna go full speed when I'm out there and I'm gonna keep smashing and dashing in everything I do. Maybe if it's not necessary one single bit, I'll go down. But if I can make some plays and make some extra yardage or get into the end zone, I'm definitely going to go full speed. I'm gonna take the hits and I'm gonna do everything I can."
Gronkowski has participated in New England's first two training camp practices, but on Friday he was limited to individual drills for the second straight day. He'll be in pads on Saturday morning when the team puts them on for the first time, but he said he won't be taking (or dishing out) any hits.
"I would say nah, I'm not going to be doing that tomorrow," he explained. "You want to be in the pads. You want to be in full equipment because it's a big difference not having the pads on running routes and having pads on running routes. I'm out there rreally running full speed so it'll be nice to have pads on and feel comfortable with everything starting tomorrow."
Gronkowski wore shoulder pads on Friday -- which may have been what made him look a little slower than he did on Thursday -- as well as a brace on his surgically-repaired right knee. It's a reminder of the season-ending hit laid on him in December by Cleveland's TJ Ward, just as the arm brace he wears is a reminder of the freak broken arm he suffered while blocking for an extra point in 2012.
"I'm used to the arm brace now," Gronkowski said. "It's been about a year now with that so it's second hand with that thing on. Knee brace just started, but it's only the second day out there and I'm already getting comfortable with everything so it's feeling good out there running routes, getting balls thrown [to me]."
For the second consecutive afternoon, Tom Brady spent time working with Gronkowski after practice, throwing him passes while he ran a variety of routes out of his three-point stance. For the tight end, who practiced with his teammates for the first time since last season on Thursday, moments like that one are a culmination of all the work he has put in to get himself back on the field.
"It just feels great to be out there with my teammates again," he said. "Being in the huddle, catching balls from Tom Brady, I mean it's a dream come true that feels like it was taken away and now I got it back. It's awesome."
Gronkowski said he's preparing himself in the hopes that he'll be ready for Week 1 of the regular season, but admitted that it's so far off -- still more than a month away -- that he can't be sure how he'll feel then.
Whether his camp's timetable for coming back from his broken arm last year jived with the Patriots' was the subject of some debate last year. But Gronkowski made it clear that this season all parties are on the same page.
"I don't feel no pressure at all about that," Gronkowski said. "I worked my but off the last six months to even be here right now in training camp, out here with all my teammates. I made sure I was in there every single day rehabbing every single day so I could come out here throwing routes on Day 1.
"That feels great to be out here on that note. If I'm just working hard every single day and improving every single day and give it all I got, listen to the trainers and coaches to get myself prepared and ready, that's all I can ask for. I'm putting pressue on myself to improve every single day and work hard every single day . . . We're all on the same page right now: the team, the organization, myself, the trainers, the doctors. We're all on the same page. It's just to keep working hard."
Gronkowski insisted that the hard work continued throughout this summer and that the weeks leading up to training camp were much tamer than some of his last few off the field.
The Summer of Gronk was more about being on the training table than dancing shirtless on stage.
"It was boring this year," Gronkowski said with a smile. "I was rehabbing everyday. It was miserable. Hopefully that never happens again. I don't wish nothing on anyone like what I had the past three years. I'm just looking forward to the future and getting back on the field, making some plays and helping my teammates out."