FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Rob Gronkowski ran short routes, caught passes and jogged back to the line of scrimmage.
He didn’t cut sharply, run hard at defensive backs or participate in 11-on-11 drills.
The oft-injured tight end for the New England Patriots is practicing at training camp but not ready for full activity as he continues his recovery from knee surgery. He’s not even sure he’ll play in the season opener Sept. 7.
“I’m preparing myself to my max ability right now for the first regular game,” Gronkowski said, dripping with sweat after Friday’s workout. “I really can’t say anything from here on out because it’s far away.”
The signs of his surgical history are obvious – a heavy brace on his left arm, another brace on his right knee.
“I’m used to the arm brace now. It’s been a year now wearing that so it’s second-hand now having that thing on,” Gronkowski said. “The knee brace just started, but today’s the second day out there and I’m already getting comfortable with everything.
“It’s great to be out there with my teammates again, being in the huddle, catching balls from Tom Brady. It’s a dream come true again. It feels like it got taken away and now I feel like I got it back so it’s awesome.”
Injuries have derailed a pro career that started with significant production.
Gronkowski missed his final college season at Arizona following back surgery but, as a rookie in 2010, he had 42 catches for 546 yards and 10 touchdowns. The next season he set NFL records for tight ends with 1,327 yards receiving, 17 touchdown receptions and 18 total touchdowns. He also caught 90 passes and was an outstanding blocker.
In 2012, he started strong before breaking his left forearm in the 11th game while blocking for an extra point.
Since then, he’s missed 17 of the Patriots next 26 games, including the playoffs. And he was on the weekly injury report or the injured reserve list for each of the past 33 games.
“It’s been a lot, but I’m putting that all in my past now and just grinding right now, going to get my knee 100 percent ready to go,” Gronkowski said. “I’m just not going to dwell on the past.”
He began last season on the sideline after four surgeries on his left forearm and a back operation on June 18.