Star tight end Rob Gronkowski did not practice with the team, watching instead from the sidelines in street clothes. With no boot or noticeable discomfort, it's likely this was just an extra day off after a game for Gronkowski to rest his ankle, which he injured late last season and needed surgery on after the Patriots' Super Bowl loss.
The absence left the Patriots shallow at the tight end position, with just Aaron Hernandez, Alex Silvestro and Tyler Urban on the practice field. Offseason pickups Daniel Fells (shoulder) and Jake Ballard (knee) have yet to strap on pads for the Patriots, with both on the physically unable to play list right now. Visanthe Shiancoe has also been held out of practice for a week with an undisclosed injury.
But the Patriots also had a welcome face return to practice earlier than expected.
All-Pro Logan Mankins returned from a torn ACL on Sunday evening, playing with the first-team offense at left guard. The practice did not include full pads, so Mankins may not be ready for full action yet. But with the clear offensive line struggles the Patriots have had — especially in their first preseason game — and no previous timetable for Mankins' return, Patriots fans can take a collective sigh of relief for the early return.
Other notable players returning to practice were linebacker Brandon Spikes, defensive tackle Ron Brace and wide receiver Deion Branch.
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