Gronkowski set to play in opener

Star tight end Rob Gronkowski stood in front of his Gillette Stadium locker Monday and announced he will be playing in the New England Patriots’ opener at Miami this Sunday.

Saying he is “super excited,” Gronkowski vowed to be on the field after he didn’t play in any of the four preseason games as he completed his recovery from right knee surgery in December.

Gronkowski, who tore his right ACL and MCL on Dec. 8, is a two-time Pro Bowler and was an All-Pro in 2011. He has 226 catches with 42 touchdowns in 50 regular-season games.

Last season, coming off multiple surgeries and an arm infection, he appeared in seven games, catching 39 passes, four for touchdowns, before going down.

Cautious Newton wears flak jacket

Panthers QB Cam Newton returned to the practice field wearing an oversized flak jacket designed to provide added protection for his fractured ribs.

It was Newton’s first practice since Aug. 22 when he had his ribs stepped on during a preseason game against the Patriots.

Coach Ron Rivera said last week that Newton would be evaluated during the weekend but expected him to play in Week 1 at Tampa Bay.

Backup quarterback Derek Anderson also practiced after injuring his right hand during Carolina’s preseason finale.

Around the league

Broncos receiver Wes Welker returned to practice Monday for the first time since sustaining a concussion in an Aug. 23 preseason game. … Oakland rookie Derek Carr will start the season opener against the Jets. … Houston has signed safety Danieal Manning. … Bills rookie receiver Sammy Watkins is still experiencing soreness after returning to practice for the first time since aggravating a rib injury last week. … Michael Sam was not amongst the 10 players selected to the St. Louis Rams’ practice squad.

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