FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots won’t let Rob Gronkowski loose to compete in full-contact drills just yet, but the All-Pro tight end is getting prepared for the next step in his recovery by competing against the team’s best defender.
Gronkowski’s surgically repaired knee is precluding him from participating in 1-on-1, 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, but he’s spending time with quarterback Tom Brady and cornerback Darrelle Revis during each practice at Gillette Stadium. While the rest of the team competes in special teams drills, Gronkowski, Brady and Revis — perhaps the team’s three most talented players — are off in an end zone practicing routes.
Defenders are prohibited from hitting Gronkowski until his torn ACL is fully healed, but Revis still gets some contact in against the 6-foot-6, 265-pounder in their individual sessions.
“It’s good just to have a defender out there, instead of just running my routes on air right now,” Gronkowski said Sunday at Gillette Stadium after Patriots training practice. “To break off a guy right in front of you, just like it’s a game — you got to break off the guy, break off the defender. Having Darrelle out there and having him give me some contact — a little bit, pushing me on my routes — just making me a better player out there as of right now.”
The Patriots don’t have a timetable set for when Gronkowski will be able to give it a full go, so the tight end repeated a common mantra for Patriots players — he’s day-to-day.
“Closer every single day to getting in there with the team, getting in there with some contact,” Gronkowski said. “Talking to trainers, we don’t have a set day for that or anything, just taking it day-by-day. We’ll see how tomorrow goes, and just improving every day to get back out there and start hitting.”
Gronkowski stayed in Foxboro to rest his knee while the rest of his teammates traveled to Richmond, Va., last week to practice with the Washington Redskins. The Philadelphia Eagles are coming to town on Tuesday and Wednesday, and given the full-contact nature of joint practices, it’s unlikely Gronkowski will be ready to go this week.
Gronkowski isn’t ready to be a full participant in practice yet, but he stressed that he’s giving 100 percent when he can compete in a drill.
“I’m not out here, running routes or anything at 80 percent, as you can see,” Gronkowski said. “I’m just running out there, I’m going full speed in the drills I’m doing, but they’re just limiting the drills I can do — from the contact. (I’m) going full speed out there on my routes.”