No Patriot more excited to return than Rob Gronkowski

No Patriot more excited to return than Rob Gronkowski

FOXBORO -- The most excitable player on the practice field on Day One of Patriots training camp wasn’t some young kid getting his first taste of the massive crowds at Foxboro for practice, or established veterans like Stephon Gilmore and Brandin Cooks, or even Tom Brady, who lives for this.

The player who was bouncing from first step to last was none other than Rob Gronkowski. 

“I’ve definitely had a longer vacation than a lot of guys,” said Gronkowski. “I’d probably say I was the most eager to get going, to get rolling.”

Gronkowski hasn’t played in a game since he suffered a season-ending injury back in the Week 12 win over the Jets. Back surgery followed and while the imposing tight end has been ahead of schedule the entire time, seeing is believing.

Gronk made a handful of nice grabs, including three in the end zone. All resulted in an exuberant display from the 28-year old.

"It’s football," he said. "Just when you’re feeling good out there and making plays you just want to have fun. That’s the whole game of football. Have fun out there, enjoy it and have competition. Competition is huge. That’s what gets you better. That’s what makes you better as a player. That’s what makes the team better -- competition.”

Running around in shorts and shells is a continuation of a process that saw Gronk work with the team during both OTAs and mini-camp. This weekend, another milestone, practicing in full pads, not that there’s a rush.

“I don’t mind the first two days without pads,” he said. “I’m not going to lie. You wanna get acclimated to football and to the movements and everything. You want to get your body back to it. It’s been a while since you’ve been having competition like that . . . but then after that, you’re ready to roll.”

And when that time comes, Gronk will welcome this defense -- and any other -- taking their shots.

“I always want to take hits. When we put those pads on, I’m going to definitely be ready. I am going to be ready to take hits, ready to play ball.”

He’d better be. Gronk punctuated those scores with spikes and dancing and some other nonsense that will no doubt be filed away by the defensive player. Of course, they can’t light up their own tight end, and who would want to extinguish that passion anyway?

"I don’t even notice know what I did,” he said. “It wasn’t like a real spike, it was just like tossing it to the ground. Juiced up, just trying to make plays out there.”

Thursday's Patriots-Texans practice report: Gronk participates, Cannon does not

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Thursday's Patriots-Texans practice report: Gronk participates, Cannon does not

FOXBORO -- There was good news and bad news for the Patriots on Thursday's injury report.

The good? Rob Gronkowski ratcheted up his participation in practice from Wednesday to Thursday and was listed as a "limited" participant. On Wednesday, though he was spotted on the field and participating in some drills, he was listed as a non-participant. 

The bad? Marcus Cannon was on the field to start the session, but he was later listed as a non-participant as he deals with an ankle issue and a concussion.

Also on the not-so-good news front for Bill Belichick's club: Rex Burkhead (ribs) did not participate for the second-straight day, throwing his availability into doubt for Sunday; defensive tackle Vincent Valentine (knee) was also held out of practice. 

On the Texans' end of things, it's worth keeping an eye on the status of their corners Kevin Johnson and Jonathan Joseph. Johnson didn't participate due to a knee issue, and Joseph was limited with a shoulder injury. 

Thursday's practice participation/injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Texans game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
RB Rex Burkhead (ribs)
OT Marcus Cannon (ankle/concussion)
DT Vincent Valentine (knee)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
WR Danny Amendola (concussion/knee)
WR Phillip Dorsett (knee)
CB Stephon Gilmore (groin)
TE Rob Gronkowski (groin)
LB Dont'a Hightower (knee)
WR Chris Hogan (knee)
LB Elandon Roberts (thumb)
CB Eric Rowe (groin)
WR Matthew Slater (hamstring)

HOUSTON TEXANS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
G Jeff Allen (ankle)
CB Kevin Johnson (knee)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
RB Alfred Blue (ankle)
NT Brandon Dunn (knee)
WR Will Fuller V (shoulder)
CB Jonathan Joseph (shoulder)
G Xavier Su'a-Filo (knee)
DE J.J. Watt (finger)

FULL PARTICIPATION
TE Stephen Anderson (concussion)
CB Marcus Burley (knee)
T Chris Clark (wrist)
WR Bruce Ellington (concussion)
TE Ryan Griffin (concussion)

Malcolm Butler: 'I haven't been performing at the level that I should be'

Malcolm Butler: 'I haven't been performing at the level that I should be'

FOXBORO -- When Malcolm Butler didn't start against the Saints on Sunday, it wasn't something he was told ahead of time. It did surprise some of his teammates, though, during that week's walkthrough when he wasn't working with the starters. 

On Thursday, instead of acting shellshocked, Butler sounded like a player who was set on earning a place back in the Patriots starting lineup.

TODAY'S PATRIOTS REPORT

"I haven't been performing at the level that I should be performing at," he said. "I gotta do whatever I gotta do to help the team. Whatever role that I get, I got a job to do so I gotta do it. Just gotta keep grinding, keep working hard."

Butler found himself working in behind Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe in New Orleans as the team's No. 3 corner. Asked if he was frustrated -- he's making $3.91 million this year and is scheduled to hit free agency after the season -- he acknowledged that those types of feelings have crept in at times. 

"I kind of thought about it like that, but I can't worry about anything but what's happening right now," Butler said. "Complaining or feeling sorry for myself is not going to make me perform better. I just gotta keep rolling. I'm gonna get it rolling. That's what I'm going to do."

In the last year of his deal, and with a highly-paid corner on the roster for the foreseeable future, Butler's name is a logical one to be tossed around as a candidate to be traded, but he said he tries not to pay attention to that speculation.

"As much as I can I try not to," he said. "This is where I play. This is where I'm happy at. I just gotta continue doing my thing."

Still without a long-term deal, Butler explained he has felt sorry for himself at times, but he's done what he can, he said, to push those thoughts aside. 

"We all had those feelings before, but we wake up and realize in reality that it's not going to help you," he said. "It's not going to help you. I just gotta go out there and play hard with a lot of fire and that's what I'm going to do. We'll see."

Butler allowed four catches on five targets for 40 yards and a touchdown against the Saints last weekend. In Week 1 he had a costly pass-interference penalty in the end zone that led to a Chiefs score.

While he has been disappointed in his play thus far this season, he sounded confident that he'd be able to work his way back into defensive coordinator Matt Patricia's group of starters. "I'm finding my way back, better believe that."

Butler added that he hasn't been told if he'll start this weekend against the Texans, but "I'm playing like it, though. I'm practicing like it. I'll be ready. It starts at practice."

"It's still early," he said. "Two games [and] preseason games, but there's no excuses. There's no excuses. I'll be ready to roll. Lights out."

Why so confident in the bounce-back?

"There've been times when I've been through a lot of stuff man," he said. "I made it through that and I made it to the National Football League. If I can handle that and make it to the NFL then I can put my mind together to make it past this situation. Just gotta perform better. It's still early, but need a sense of urgency and we'll see that."

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