FOXBOROUGH – Rob Gronkowski was back to being his silly self in front of his locker on Wednesday, though in between the one-liners he didn't give any indication as to whether he'll be back on the field for the Patriots this week – or when he might return.
Asked right off the bat for an update, Gronkowski, said, "There really isn’t an update. You know how we go … just improving every week. Definitely I gotta say I’m improved since last week, I’m improved since a few weeks ago, and that’s all I can ask for. Taking everything day by day, and today I went out and practiced, went to meetings, did everything normal. So just day-by-day and improving every day."
As to this Sunday and his potential availability when the Patriots travel to Atlanta, Gronkowski said, "I don’t know. As of right now we’re just focusing day by day and tomorrow’s another step forward and we’ve got to see."
And there seems to be no easy answer on when Gronkowski will know that he's ready to play for the first time in more than nine months:
"When will I know? Just when it clicks. I guess. All I can ask for is to work hard every day and do what the coaches ask me to do, do what my teammates ask me to do and do what the training staff asks me to do. If I do that at full speed, that’s all I’m really asking for, and when the time’s ready, the time’s ready," he said.
The tight end provided quite the laugh when he was asked if he felt like he was close to playing against Tampa Bay last week, or whether he knew that wasn't happening.
"I was inactive," he said, echoing coach Bill Belichick's (oft-repeated) words about his status from the coach's Monday press conference.
The gathered reporters, most of whom were present for Monday's exchange, which has gotten a good deal of attention, had a long laugh, and Gronkowski joined in, indicating that he was in on the joke as well.
Since the Patriots upgraded his status for last week's game from the "doubtful" (only a 25 percent chance of playing) it had been for Weeks 1 and 2 to "questionable" (50-50 chance), what kinds of improvements has he made that led to the change?
"I don’t even know. I don’t know how any of that works," Gronkowski said, smiling. "So … I’m still wondering how that works – doubtful, questionable. I guess, like I said, I’ve been improving every week, so whoever makes that call must have seen some improvement to put me from 'doubtful' to 'questionable.'"
After multiple surgeries on his left arm as well as back surgery in June, Gronkowski missed a great deal of time in the weight room. A big part of his recovery has been regaining the strength that's a big part of his game.
"That’s part of the whole rehab process – it’s not just rehabbing your arm and the back, I took off my whole body for a couple of months. So you’ve got to get everything going again, all muscles firing again in all parts of your body. So that’s a big process, getting back in shape, running shape, football shape, and getting your strength back. I’ve just been working on that the whole time the last few weeks also," Gronkowski said.
Does he feel his strength is back where it needs to be?
"My strength is improving, week to week and that’s all I can ask for right now. It definitely improved greatly from four weeks ago, and improving every week from when I started," Gronkowski said.
NFL Network reported last Sunday that it was Gronkowski's arm, not his back, that is keeping him off the field at this point, but Gronkowski said everything has been involved. It's not just a matter of rehabbing his arm and back, but also getting his entire body back into football-playing shape and having the conditioning level he'll need to play a full game.
Gronkowski looked lean during training camp, particularly in his upper body, which made sense given where his surgeries were.
Asked how much weight he lost, Gronkowski drew more laughs.
"Nothing really. I don’t lose weight," he said. "I can look skinny and still be the same amount of weight. It goes by ‘skinny’ or ‘looking jacked.’ So I was skinny back for a few months."
Is he now back in the "jacked" range?
"You’ve got to tell me. I’m getting there. Day by day getting bigger."