New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski returned to practice on Thursday.
“Rob Gronkowski is back at practice today,” tweeted Mike Reiss of ESPN. “Watched him align in a three-point stance and then thrust up against a teammate holding a blocking pad, which is one indication of his back injury improving.”
NFL Network’s Michael Giardi tweeted footage of the practice, featuring the star tight end.
Kevin Duffy of The Boston Globe posted video of Gronk’s participation in positional drills.
Gronkowski didn’t travel with the team for New England’s Week 7 victory over the Chicago Bears due to ankle and back injuries. He sat out Wednesday’s practice, New England’s first since the win over the Bears.
Offensive tackle Marcus Cannon returned after missing four practices and the Week 7 victory with a concussion. Deatrich Wise, the defensive end who was limited to just 10 snaps in Week 7 with ankle and knee injures, practiced after sitting out Wednesday’s session.
Running back Sony Michel, who sustained an MCL sprain in the win, missed his second straight practice. He’s expected to miss one or two weeks. Cornerback Eric Rowe also missed practice again with a groin injury.
Big Day for James White?
With Michel likely out, head coach Bill Belichick will likely lean heavily on running back James White in the team’s Week 8 matchup with the Buffalo Bills.
“We’ll have to take it week by week, see how it goes, what type of game plan … who’s available on our side and how we want to distribute that,” Belichick said, according to The Boston Herald. “We don’t want to overload [White], but at the same time, he’s certainly capable of doing a significant amount for our football team in a lot of different ways.”
Kenjon Barner, whom the Patriots signed on September 26 before cutting him a week later only to sign him again on October 8, carried the ball a career-high 10 times against Chicago. He’ll likely get backup touches.
“A month ago, I would’ve told you it all has to be run plays because I didn’t understand the passing scheme,” Barner said on Wednesday, according to MassLive.com. “But now, obviously I’m still learning still growing, but I have a basic knowledge and understanding of this system. I’m good for whatever they’re throwing at me.”
Scrambling QBs a Patriots Problem
Bills quarterback Josh Allen could return for the Week 8 tilt with New England. The rookie’s been inconsistent with his arm but has shown the ability to make plays with his feet.
Rushing quarterbacks have been an issue for the Patriots all season. Across the first two weeks, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and Blake Bortles of the Jacksonville Jaguars combined for 14 carries and 75 yards against New England. On Sunday, Mitch Trubisky rushed six times for a game-high 81 yards and a touchdown.
“Well, we didn’t do a very good job of rushing the passer – I mean, bad coaching, bad tackling, some bad playing, just not very good,” Belichick said, per the Herald. “I mean, he ran well, he broke a couple tackles, but not very good by us in any area.”
The Patriots face more scramblers in the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers and the Tennessee Titans’ Marcus Marriota in Weeks 9 and 10.