Fletcher out, Dowling doubtful for Sunday

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Fletcher out, Dowling doubtful for Sunday

FOXBORO -- Linebacker Dane Fletcher (thumb) is out and cornerback Ras-I Dowling (hip) is doubtful for Sunday's game against the Steelers.

They were the only two Patriots players missing from the sweats-and-shells session of Friday's practice, and were listed on the Pats' injury report that was released later in the day.

Linebacker Jerod Mayo is listed as questionable, leaving open the possibility he may return from his knee injury on Sunday.

PATRIOTS
OUT: LB Dane Fletcher (thumb).

DOUBTFUL: CB Ras-I Dowling (hip).

QUESTIONABLE: S Josh Barrett (thumb), RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (toe), DL Albert Haynesworth (back), LB Jerod Mayo (knee), OT Sebastian Vollmer (back).

STEELERS

OUT: LB James Harrison (eye), T Chris Hoke (neck), G Doug Legursky (toe), LB Jason Worilds (quadricep).

QUESTIONABLE: LB James Farrior (calf), WR Hines Ward (ankle).

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

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Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

When it comes to projecting Rob Gronkowski's health, it's been best to steer clear of absolutes. There have been too many injuries, too many surgeries, to predict exactly how he'll feel months in advance. 

Still, in speaking with ESPN's Cari Champion recently, he said he had "no doubt" he'll be ready for Week 1 of the 2017 regular season. 

"Yes, for sure," he replied when asked if he expected to be good to go. 

Gronkowski also fielded a question about his long-term future in the sit-down. Lately it's been his coach Bill Belichick and his quarterback Tom  Brady who receiver all the life-after-football queries, but Gronkowski, 27, was asked how much longer he'd like to play. 

"I’m not really sure," he said. "I mean, I still love playing the game, and as of right now, I want to play as long as I possibly could play. My mindset is to keep on going."

Gronkowski landed on season-ending injured reserve in December after undergoing a procedure on his back -- his third back surgery since 2009. He's had nine reported surgeries -- including procedures on his knee, forearm and ankle -- since his final year at the University of Arizona. 

Gronkowski doesn't think Goodell can visit Gillette: 'The fans are nuts'

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Gronkowski doesn't think Goodell can visit Gillette: 'The fans are nuts'

At this point, there may be no getting out of it.

Roger Goodell chose to visit Atlanta twice in as many weeks during its run to a Super Bowl, and in the process he opted not to check in at Gillette Stadium for either the Divisional Round or the AFC title game. But once the Patriots won Super Bowl LI, many felt as though Goodell would simply have no choice but to attend the 2017 regular-season opener in Foxboro. 

There are those who are itching to have him visit. There are those who hope he stays away. In an interview with ESPN, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski didn't put himself in either camp, but he seemed to suggest that it might not be the best idea for the commissioner to show his face in New England.

"To tell you the truth, I really don’t think so," Gronkowski said when asked if Goodell could come back to Foxboro any time soon. "The fans are nuts, they’re wild, and they have the Patriots’ back no matter what. They have Tom’s back. I’m telling you, he won’t get through the highway if the fans saw him. I don’t even think he can even land in the airport in Boston because Patriot fans are the best fans, they’re the most loyal fans. I’m telling you, they might just carry out Roger themselves. They couldn’t even get to the stadium in Foxboro if he landed in Boston."

Goodell hasn't been to Gillette Stadium since Deflategate, but he said during Super Bowl week that he'd be happy to visit if he was invited.