FOXBOROUGH - On Sunday, Rob Gronkowski disappointed the swarm of reporters near his locker after his first practice in months by saying he wasn't going to be chatting that day, but promised he would at some point this week.
True to his word, on Wednesday Gronkowski did just that. Though he talked for over six minutes, the bulk of his comments can be boiled down to two words: he's progressing.
"Putting the pads on, just having them on, man, made me happy again," Gronkowski said of returning to practice. "I love this game, definitely miss it, football, just going out there and practicing with my teammates. Miss doing the grind with my teammates, miss being out there with the coaches and everything, so itís just awesome to be back out there with the team and focusing and getting things done."
But asked about when he'll play, Gronkowski didn't give any detail.
"I approach every single day to the max of my ability, preparing every day to do the best I can. When my numberís called, thatís when I'll play," he said.
It has been about 10 weeks since Gronkowski underwent a diskectomy, aimed at relieving the pain of a herniated disk that bothered him last season. That June surgery came after four surgeries on his left forearm, which he originally broke last Nov. 17.
"Iím making progress every week. Getting out there is another step forward," he said. "You just have to take positive steps forward, and keep re-evaluating every single day where I am."
Asked if he's had any setbacks during his most recent recovery, Gronkowski quickly answered, "nope!" and added that he's been progressing every day and that's what he plans on doing going forward.
The 24-year old said he hasn't been watching the calendar, keeping a specific date in mind for his return, and the training staff and doctors haven't either.
"It doesn't matter what that says [that typical recovery for his procedure is 10 weeks], it just matters how your body feels, how the rehab program is going and how you're progressing every day," he said. "Just look forward to every day and I'm not counting by when my surgery was or 'that day I'm coming back.' I don't work like that, the trainers don't work like that, we just work going day by day."
But Gronkowski did not want to reflect on the past several months and he he dealt with them mentally and emotionally, saying, "I mean, it was difficult, but Iím past that all. Todayís a new day and the only thing I can do is look forward. Iím not thinking about the past anymore; thatís all in the past and the only thing I can do now is improve."
He was asked about rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld and Sudfeld's recent comment that Gronkowski has been offering him tips, and whether that makes Gronkowski, in his fourth season, feel like the old veteran.
"Ah, man - heís older than me!," Gronkowski said, laughing. "But yeah, heís a good guy and itís great to have him. Heís a hard worker and a good player; looking forward to getting out there with him and the rest of the team. It's just going to be a lot of fun."
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