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September 01. 2014 7:58PM

'Gronk' gets OK for Pats' opener


New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) watches drills during training camp at the team practice facility last month. (Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports)

After missing the entire preseason recovering from right knee surgery, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is ready to return to the field for Sunday’s regular-season opener at Miami.

“Super excited, super pumped. I feel mentally and physically ready, for sure. No doubt about it,” Gronkowski said Monday. “My mentality now is I’m ready to go, I’m ready to be out there, I’m ready to hit, I’m ready to start going.”

Gronkowski said he will most likely wear a brace over the knee but doesn’t plan to change his style of play.

“It feels good to be out here now this week, preparing for the Dolphins, knowing that I put myself in the best situation the last few weeks and few months to get back out here,” Gronkowski said. “That was my plan the whole time — to work as hard as I could so I’d be ready for this week.”

Gronkowski did not suit up for New England’s preseason games but participated in a limited basis in some 11-on-11 sessions. He is expected to be limited if not operating on a snap count maximum for at least one week.

The Dolphins were not surprised about Gronkowski’s return.

“We were fully prepared,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said of the news Gronkowski will play. “We’ll be ready for him, for sure.”

In one game against the Dolphins last season, Gronkowski had two catches for 27 yards. He missed the Dec. 15 game at Miami.

Gronkowski has been slowed by injuries that past two seasons. He broke a collarbone in 2012 and tore an ACL in 2013. The injuries limited him to 17 games during that span.

Gronkowski played seven games last season before the ACL tear.

When Gronkowski did play last season, he was productive. In those seven games, he made 39 receptions for 592 yards with four touchdowns.

Patriots sign 10 to practice squad

The New England Patriots announced Monday the signing of 10 players to their practice squad including quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

Bethel-Thompson, 26, is a third-year player out of Sacramento State. He has spent time with Miami (2011), Minnesota (2012-2013) and San Francisco (2013). The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder, originally was signed by San Francisco as a rookie free agent.

The other players signed to the practice squad were: defensive linemen Jake Bequette, Charley Hughlett and Deonate Skinner, wide receiver Josh Boyce, linebacker Ja’Gared Davis, safety Kanorris Davis, running back Jonas Gray, offensive lineman Chris Martin and defensive back Daxton Swanson.

Also Monday, the Patriots claimed safety Don Jones off waivers from Miami. Jones, 24, spent last season with Miami after joining the team as a seventh-round draft pick. He played in all 16 games last year and led the team in special teams tackles.


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