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Rob Gronkowski returns to Patriots practice, first appearance since pulling up Aug. 15 08.24.16 at 3:42 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski

FOXBORO — Rob Gronkowski returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since pulling up with an apparent lower body injury Aug. 15 against the Bears.

The Patriots star tight end went through individual football drills after stretching with the team, the first time he’s been cleared to do that since going out on a sideline route and pulling up lame when going up for a pass from Tom Brady.

Before practice, Gronkowski had some fun on social media, taking a jab at the Cowboys for lifting the “Do Your Job” credo from the Patriots of 2014. He tweeted, “Hmm, the Cowboys’ new slogan sounds familiar … What are your thoughts??? #DoYourJobGate.

The Patriots worked out in shorts and shells on the upper grass fields outside Gillette Stadium.

Among those missing were Shaq Mason, Jonathan Cooper, Alan Branch, Dion Lewis and Sebastian Vollmer.

Danny Amendola was again on hand for stretching but not with a helmet or shoulder shells, like the rest of the team, as he remains on the PUP list.

Amendola joined a group of Patriots that stretched and then went down the hill to the lower field to continue their work, separate from the team. Joining Amendola on the lower field were Malcolm Mitchell, Shea McClellin, Jabaal Sheard and Tre’ Jackson.

There was a special guest on hand as rock star Jon Bon Jovi attended practice and chatted with Patriots owner Robert Kraft during the media portion of practice. Bon Jovi’s music was playing on the speakers during stretching.

Bon Jovi’s former Arena League team, the Philadelphia Soul will battle the Arizona Rattlers this Friday in Arena Bowl XXIX at the same time Bill Belichick’s Patriots will play the Carolina Panthers in the third preseason game.

Read More: Gronk, New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski,
Jimmy Garoppolo thanks Tom Brady for being ‘nothing but helpful’ gearing up for season at 2:37 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The bond between Jimmy Garoppolo and Tom Brady appears to be very solid, at least according to quarterback who will be filling in for Brady for the first four games.

Garoppolo was asked Wednesday, in his final preparations for Carolina Friday night, whether Brady has comforted him and told him not to look over his shoulder while he’s taking over the starting quarterback job through Week 4.

“We have a ton of conversations, day in and day out,” Garoppolo said. “We’re together 24/7, but he’s been helpful this whole way. Whether it’s encouragement, helping me with little things here and there, he’s been nothing but helpful and I thank him for that.”

These are not just unchartered waters for Brady (as Chris Price pointed out), this is also a very delicate spot for Garoppolo, trying to show leadership of the offense while not overstepping his personal reach with a lot of the veterans who know and respect No. 12. That’s something Garoppolo also acknowledged Wednesday.

“It’s a tough situation at times, but you can’t worry about that too much,” Garoppolo said. “It’s one of those things where if you start worrying about that, then you can’t focus on whatever it is – your reads, your checks, whatever it may be. You just have to go about your business the same way you always have. I’m not trying to do something crazy and do something I’ve never done before, I’m trying to be myself and do what I do.”

Garoppolo, who again said he has no idea if he’s starting Friday, is coming off a very solid second quarter against the Bears last Thursday, completing 16-of-21 passes for 181 yards and a touchdown to AJ Derby. He also engineered a two-minute drive at the end of the first half that showed poise and command, something he might not have been able to do as smoothly a year ago.

“We got a nice rhythm. I think that was a big part of it, just getting the drive started and everything,” Garoppolo said. “The pockets were very clean in that two-minute drive, the [offensive] line did a great job blocking and that always makes it easier. It was a good rhythm that we got into and things worked out well.

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Read More: Jimmy Garoppolo, New England Patriots, Tom Brady,
Jimmy Garoppolo on Bryan Stork: ‘It’s tough to see one of your guys go like that’ at 1:57 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Wednesday was a harsh reminder to Jimmy Garoppolo of the business of football.

Center Bryan Stork was reportedly released (and later traded to the Redskins for a conditional seventh-round pick) by the Patriots. Stork, in his third season out of Florida State, came into the NFL the same year as the Patriots quarterback. Garoppolo was taken in the second round of the 2014 draft while Stork was taken two rounds later.

The two naturally developed a bond in and out of the Patriots locker room.

“It’s tough. It’s that time of year,” Garoppolo said. “There’s a lot of movement between teams and players and everything. It’s tough to see one of your guys go like that. That’s the business I guess.”

Garoppolo had a chance to play with Stork in the preseason, during the 41-14 loss to the Chiefs in Week 4 of 2014 and in the season finale against the Bills at Gillette in the ’14 season finale.

Now, Garoppolo must move onto the next part of his job, working with David Andrews.

“David, he’s been doing a great job this camp,” Garoppolo said. “The whole O-line, it’s a good group of guys. No one gets mixed and matched more than those guys do. So, to be able to able to work with different people next to you all the time and everything like that. You’re getting adjusted to them, they’re getting adjusted to you, it’s really a credit to those guys up front. They all just handle it very well.”

What makes Garoppolo appreciate the job of an NFL center?

“The calls are a big part of it,” Garoppolo said. “But all the way across the board, on the whole O-line, it’s tough to play any one of those positions. There’s a lot of communication that just an average fan sitting in the stands probably won’t see because the trenches down there is tight quarters. There’s a lot of communication between those guys. In the blink of an eye, the whole play could change for them. So, those guys are doing a tremendous job for us. Hopefully, they keep it going.”

Now, it’s Andrews, Josh Kline and rookie Ted Karras who figure to hold down the center position to start this season. All three can take charge.

“Yeah, but it’s not only the center, though. We have different leaders in all positions, and I think that’s a good thing about our team and our locker room,” Garoppolo said. “There’s leaders all over the place. People lead by example. There’s different ways to lead. Everyone has their own style of doing it.”

Read More: Bryan Stork, David Andrews, Jimmy Garoppolo, Josh Kline
Mike Petraglia, Chris Price detail Bryan Stork release, Jimmy Garoppolo reaction and Martellus Bennett at 1:34 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Jimmy Garoppolo reacted to Bryan Stork’s release Wednesday, Nate Washington was released and Martellus Bennett spoke up for the first time in a while in the Patriots’ locker room. WEEI’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price have your update from Foxboro.

Read More: Bryan Stork, Chris Price, Jimmy Garoppolo, Martellus Bennett
Bill Belichick faces ‘$64,000 question’ on personnel decisions in next 2 weeks 08.23.16 at 5:59 pm ET
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Bill Belichick addresses reporters about the pending roster decisions in the weeks before the season opener Sept. 11. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — It’s a balancing act that Bill Belichick has, for the most part, mastered over his 17 years in Foxboro.

Weighing current production against potential. Weighing established veterans against younger, cheaper talent. Deciding between proven performance and future gain.

On Wall Street, it’s the stock market every day. In Foxboro, and around the NFL, the futures business can be just as dicey. And this is the busiest and riskiest time of the year. Belichick and director of player personnel Nick Caserio have begun to trim the roster down in an effort to reach the 75-player limit for Aug. 30 and the final 53-man limit for Sept. 3.

The Patriots must decide between the proven commodity of Donald Brown and the unknown in D.J. Foster. They must get more reps for Jonathan Jones, Justin Coleman and Cre’Von LeBlanc to see how to best round out their secondary. There are very subtle battles going on at the back end of the roster (as Chris Price noted) and those battles need exposure in games for coaches to reach difficult decisions.

The Patriots are still in an enviable position of having elite talent at the top end and trying to round out their roster with quality depth. But that job has become all the more crucial with the losses of Sebastian Vollmer (hip) and Dion Lewis (knee) and the possible downtime with players like Jabaal Sheard, Rob Ninkovich and Shaq Mason.

Belichick was asked Tuesday how difficult it is, this time of year, trying to decide whether or not to keep a player that the team may want to work with in the future or cut him at the risk of that player landing with another team.

“That’s the $64,000 question. That’s what it is. It’s been like that since the day I got into this league,” Belichick said. “From all of the personnel meetings I’ve ever been in it’s a [matter of] a player who’s more experienced [and] more ready to help the team now, versus a player that’s not as ready now but at some point you think the pendulum will swing in his favor. Will you do that? Can you do that? What are the consequences of making that move? What are the consequences of not making that move? How likely, as you said, is it that you could keep both players in some capacity? That’s what it’s about, trying to balance now with later.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots,
Mike Petraglia, Ryan Hannable on Tom Brady returning, D.J. Foster fighting for reps at 3:07 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Patriots quarterback Tom Brady reappeared Tuesday while rookie running back D.J. Foster talked it up in the locker room. Bill Belichick talked roster projections, or at least the complex thinking that goes into it. WEEI’s Mike Petraglia and Ryan Hannable have the details from Foxboro.

Read More: Mike Petraglia, New England Patriots, Ryan Hannable, Tom Brady. D.J. Foster
Tom Brady ‘absolutely’ wants to play vs. Carolina, says Bill Belichick made ‘great decision’ to hold him out at 1:50 pm ET
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Tom Brady reappeared at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Maybe Tom Brady is trying to plant a seed with Bill Belichick. Maybe he is just playing nice guy. But the Patriots quarterback said Tuesday that he really does want to play Thursday against Carolina in the third preseason game against the Panthers.

Brady, who called Thursday’s scissors episode a “silly accident,” said he would’ve played if the game were a regular season or playoff game instead of preseason game No. 2 against the Bears.

“Yeah, I think so. Yeah. There’s only one time I’ve ever missed for injury, and I wanted to go back and play that year, too,” Brady said, referring to his ACL tear in the 2008 opener against the Chiefs. “I think that’s just, I’ve always felt like the team is counting on me to be out there, and I’m going to do everything I can to be out there playing. I wanted to go the other night, but I think Coach made a great decision.”

Why would Brady insist on playing?

“I think you’re getting hit so just the space awareness, guys around you and ball security and things like that,” Brady said. “For whatever, the last 30 practices, quarterbacks aren’t touched. Just standing there in the pocket, holding the ball knowing that they’re coming to get the ball and knock it out of your hands, hitting the ground, those types of things and so forth are important. You just have to feel things out and the game is really the only place to get it because it’s regular speed. You don’t know what’s coming. We prepare, but we don’t obviously get to walk through the looks that we’re going to get. When you get out there you just have to make good decisions and go play quarterback the way that I’ve always tried to do.”

Brady, who hasn’t missed an entire preseason since that fateful year, said he absolutely wants to play Friday night against the Panthers.

“Yeah, absolutely. I’d like to be out there every time I get a chance to play, so you only get so many opportunities a year,” Brady said. “I’m getting so many opportunities left in my life, so I’d like to take advantage of any opportunity, any and all of them if possible. When you see your teammates out there in their uniforms and ready to go, you want to be out there with them.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, Tom Brady,
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