New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was cleared from the concussion protocol Thursday after sustaining the injury in the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars 11 days ago.
Gronkowski spoke with media for the first time this week and said he knew he would eventually be cleared and would play in Sunday’s game.
“I knew I was going to be playing the whole time,” Gronkowski said. “I was just obviously just being cautious too. I didn’t want to jump right into it right away. The team didn’t want to do it. I think we did the process very well with the training staff here and the doctors that we have did a great job of preparing me to get back out on the field.”
As for Gronkowski’s message to Patriots fans?
“I’m cleared,” he said. “I’m ready to roll.”
Meanwhile, cornerback Malcolm Butler (illness), safety Brandon King (knee) and defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. (concussion) also practiced fully on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday. New England will have two more practices at the Minnesota Vikings’ facility.
Brady practiced without a glove on his right, throwing hand that previously had stitches. For the second day in practice, Brady had black tape on the area.
Former Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork was at Thursday’s practice and spoke with the team after practice. Wilfork’s message was to remember why the team is there through all of the off-field distractions.
“He’s a great leader for us, team captain 11 years,” head coach Bill Belichick said. “A lot of friends here on the team, some new faces. But a guy that was very well-respected and had tremendous leadership on the team. It was good to see him.”
Peters’ impact still felt
Eagles left tackle Jason Peters won’t be playing in Sunday’s Super Bowl, as he has missed most of the season with a torn ACL. However, the 14-year veteran’s impact has been felt in the week leading up to the game.
On Thursday, center Jason Kelce was wearing a T-shirt with Peters’ likeness and was wearing his teammate’s No. 71 Eagles jersey. Kelce said he saw Peters wearing the shirt a few years back and wanted one of his own.
“That guy’s been such a huge part of this organization for a long time,” Kelce said. “He doesn’t get the amount of credit that probably he deserves in terms of the way he is, who he is as a person, the leader he is. It’s frustrating not having him out there for a game like this, because if there’s anybody on this entire team that deserves to be out here, he’s certainly up there at the top.”
Peters spent his first five seasons with the Buffalo Bills before joining the Eagles in 2009. He has made 166 starts in his career, 111 of which came with Philadelphia.
Many teammates have said Peters has been supportive since he went down with an injury, almost acting like another coach. Peters’ current coach was asked if he sees a future in coaching for Peters once he’s done playing.
“Jason, the moment he got back into the building, he was around the offensive line every single day,” said Eagles head coach Doug Pederson. “He’s been a mentor. … I still think he has a few years left to play before he steps away. As far as coaching goes, I don’t know. That’s something I haven’t talked to him about.”
New England safety Devin McCourty took his turn at the podium on Thursday and was asked how much he’d like his brother, Cleveland Browns cornerback Jason McCourty, to experience the Super Bowl.
Devin will be playing in his fourth Super Bowl with the Patriots.
“Certainly, yeah, I would love to see my brother playing in this game,” McCourty said. “He’s been here to support me each time I’ve had the opportunity to play. That’s why I’m always trying so hard to get us to trade for him. Hopefully this year, I’m telling the right guys and Bill and (director of player personnel Nick Caserio) pulling it off and we get him out of Cleveland. It would be a great honor to be able to support him and hopefully play alongside him one of these days.”
Belichick scouting report
Throughout the week of interviews, repetition in questions and answers becomes the norm. On Thursday, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick took a unique question from one reporter.
Belichick was asked what his scouting report would have been on himself at Wesleyan University, where he played football and lacrosse.
“You got a long way to go, buddy,” Belichick said he would have told himself. “Maybe I’d try coaching. Quite a few people told me that. It was probably good advice.”
Long hopes to add ink
Before the season, Eagles defensive end Chris Long told linebackers coach Ken Flajole that if Philadelphia won the Super Bowl, he would get a tattoo of Flajole’s face. The two spent time together in St. Louis and have been reunited in Philadelphia.
Now Long is one win away from adding a tattoo to his collection.
“He was joking with me at the beginning of the year, he goes, ‘Hey, you’re going to win two (Super Bowls) in a row here.’ And I was like, ‘All right, man, listen, if we win the Super Bowl, your face is getting tattooed somewhere. How about that?'” Long said. “I joked that, and he doesn’t forget anything. He reminded me this week. Hopefully, I’ll have that problem in a week.”
Long says he hasn’t decided where the tattoo of Flajole’s face will be if the Eagles do win, but he said Flajole won’t get to select the picture he would get inked.
“He’s going to probably try to do some young picture where he had all his hair,” Long said. “No dice. I’m going to pick the worst one.”
Eagles embrace Philly rapper
Throughout the season, rapper Meek Mill has been a popular sound at Eagles games and practices. The Philadelphia native’s music has resonated with much of the team — so much so that the Eagles will take the field to “Dreams and Nightmares,” which is one of his songs.
“He’s Philadelphia,” Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said. “It was easy. It just kind of happened naturally. Everybody was just kind of listening to it in the weight room. Everybody’s listening to it before the game. It just so happened that everybody wanted it to be the song that we come out to for the Super Bowl.”
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