- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski participated in his first full-pads practice Sunday since undergoing multiple surgeries on his left forearm and one surgery on his back this offseason.
Gronkowski was on the practice field for a second straight day Monday, a session that was little more than a walk-through (in helmets and shells).
The portion of the practice observed by the media was limited to players stretching and a brief plays-on-air period, so there was not much to assess about Gronkowski. During the plays-on-air portion of the practice, Gronkowski was one of two tight ends working with the starters, along with Zach Sudfeld.
While it is not considered a realistic expectation for Gronkowski to be ready for Sunday's opener on the road against the Buffalo Bills, or the home opener against the Jets the following Thursday, his presence on the practice field Sunday reflects that he continues to make progress in his rehabilitation, and that might be ready to transition from a rehab-specific focus to more football-specific drills.
In the 15 minutes that reporters were present, Gronkowski went through running drills as players ran the width of the field multiple times, then was part of an agility drill in which players step over bags while keeping their eyes up to catch a ball thrown by a coach. He also took part in a lower-key blocking drill in which he worked on technique by getting out of his stance and hitting a blocking pad held by a coach.
Upon arriving in the locker room after practice, Gronkowski told reporters he would speak to them later in the week.
A source said Gronkowski didn't go through the entire practice with the team, as rehabbing players sometimes take part in the first parts of the workout (running, agility drills) before going to a different field to continue rehab-type work.
When players split up into their individual positions Sunday, Gronkowski was part of a group that included fellow tight ends Michael Hoomanawanui and Sudfeld, as well as fullback James Develin. He was the fourth player to go through drills within that group.
Hoomanawanui was asked about Gronkowski's presence at the start of practice.
"Gronk is obviously a big part of our team," he said. "He is a great football player. He's a great guy to be around. There are no real highs and lows with Rob; all the stuff he's gone through you would kind of think it would be human nature to see that. He's taken his punches and he always seems to stay up high. To see that, and be around, I think it lifts everyone else's spirits, too. It's something I admire about him, not only as a football player but as a person."
The Patriots kept Gronkowski on their 53-man active roster at Saturday's deadline after he had spent all of training camp on the active/physically unable to perform list. Had the Patriots put Gronkowski on their reserve/physically unable to perform list, it would have made him ineligible to play or practice within the first six weeks of the season.
ESPNBoston.com's Field Yates contributed to this report.
1dDoug Clawson, ESPN Stats & Information