FOXBOROUGH — There was no indication from Rob Gronkowski or Bill Belichick as to when the Patriots’ standout tight end will return to the field, but Gronkowski did chat with reporters Wednesday for the first time since breaking his left forearm Nov. 18 against the Colts.
“Yes, definitely making progress,” Gronkowski said. “Every single week I’m feeling better, doing better every day. I’m working with the trainers, whatever they have me doing, just every day trying to improve on the day before.”
Gronkowski underwent surgery the day after the Patriots’ win over the Colts, and has missed the five games since then. He returned to practice Dec. 14 and also took part in practices last week on a limited basis.
This is the first time in his career that Gronkowski has missed any games; he suffered a severely sprained ankle in the AFC Championship game last January that required surgery once the season was done. Even though he was hobbled, Gronkowski played in the Super Bowl two weeks after the ankle injury.
“I’ve never had that kind of injury before, so I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “I just listen to the trainers every day, what they had me doing to get back out on the field, to get me healthy, to make me feel better every day, and so far I’d say it’s going pretty well, and from here on out I’ve just got to keep doing what I’ve been doing and listen to the trainers, take it day by day, going back out there and getting back in the groove with my teammates.”
Gronkowski seemed uncomfortable answering questions about his health, and said several times that he has been taking things day by day.
Of course, his coach said the same thing about his status a few hours earlier.
“We’ll see how he is,” said Belichick. “He did more last week than he did the week before. We’ll see where he’s at today and tomorrow when we go out there and we’ll see what he can do.
“We’ll take it day to day and we’ll make decisions day to day based on where he’s at. He’s moving along, not ready yet. We’ll take it day to day and see how it goes.”
It is unclear what Belichick meant when he said Gronkowski is “not ready yet” — whether he was talking about his health, conditioning, or something else.
In addition to his forearm, Gronkowski has also been rehabbing a hip injury. On Wednesday, he said the hip is “all good.”
Both Belichick and Gronkowski said he will play when he has gotten the green light from the medical staff.
Asked if it is important to get his player some reps this Sunday against Miami, Belichick said, “I think those are really decisions that are made medically. If players are ready to play, we play them. If they’re not, then we don’t. It’s the same for every player. We treat them all the same.
“There’s nothing more important than a player’s health and safety. When they’re cleared to play, then we make playing decisions. If they’re not cleared to play, then there’s no decision to make.”
Gronkowski knows the decision is not up to him.
“It’s when the doctors clear me, when the training staff clears me, and I’m medically ready to play and they let me play and I’m sure that’s when I’m going to get out there,” he said. “I’ve just got to listen to the trainers, keep conditioning, keep working hard so I can get out there with my teammates.”
He went on to say that he trusts the medical staff, that they’ve dealt with injuries like his in the past. So even though he’s anxious and wants to play again, “when they know it’s safe and sound and ready to go, that’s when it will be ready to go.”
Being able to practice has been a great feeling, Gronkowski said, to be able to run around with his teammates, catch passes and run routes — “all that good stuff.”
While neither Gronkowski nor Belichick would give a firm response on his availability for this week, if history holds, the fact that Gronkowski met with reporters is a positive sign. He also said he’s concerned only with the Dolphins and not the playoffs, an indication that he could be part of the game plan.
Though he has played in only 10 games, Gronkowski was named a Pro Bowler Wednesday. And despite missing more than a month, he still leads all tight ends with 10 touchdown receptions.