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Rob Gronkowski on catching passes from Tom Brady: ‘It’s a dream come true again’ 07.25.14 at 5:48 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski (87) is ready to be there for Tom Brady again in 2014. (AP)

Rob Gronkowski (87) is ready to be there for Tom Brady again in 2014. (AP)

FOXBORO — Rob Gronkowski has been through a lot of pain and misery over the last three seasons. Bum ankle, back surgery, forearm surgery, ACL surgery.

And those are just the major injuries the most popular target of Tom Brady has endured. That’s why he’s taking his time and being measured about his rehab, working closely with Patriots trainers to make sure that he’s a full go when he returns to game action, either in the preseason or – as he hopes – by the Sept. 8 opener in Miami.

But while he can’t take part in full 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills as training camp opens, he can run individual drills and work on his routes, especially where he’s most dangerous – in the red zone. Gronkowski has been running – and cutting – on the surgically repaired right knee without any noticeable limp, a good sign as he works his way back. He did it again on Friday, catching several red zone passes from Brady, as Bill Belichick looked on.

“It’€™s feeling good out there running routes and getting balls thrown [to me], and it feels great being out there with my teammates again, being in the huddle, catching balls from Tom Brady. It’€™s a dream come true again. It feels like it got taken away, and now it feels like I’€™ve got it back so it’€™s awesome.”

He even stood behind center and lobbed one to Brady.

“Yeah, we were just having fun,” Gronk said. “Maybe we’€™ll put that in after that throw. It wasn’€™t a spiral, but I’€™ve got to work on that.”

Gronkowski not only is sporting a black sleeve/brace on his right knee, he is still wearing a protective sleeve on his left forearm.

“I’€™m used to the arm brace,” Gronkowski said. “It’€™s been a year now wearing that, so it’€™s secondhand having that on. The knee brace just started, but it’€™s the second day out there, and I’€™m already getting comfortable with everything.”

After what’s he went through with the forearm going into the 2013 season, it’s natural to think Gronkowski will be more cautious. There have even been suggestions that the team (i.e. Bill Belichick) is sending a loud message that by being cleared for practice, they expect him ready once the season starts in South Florida. Does Gronk sense this?

“No, I don’€™t feel any pressure at all about that,” Gronkowski said. “I worked my butt off the last six months to even be here right now at training camp, throwing with all of my teammates. I made sure I was in there every single day, rehabbing every single day so I could come out here and be running routes on Day One. So it feels great to be out here on that note.

“If I’€™m just working hard every single day, improving every single day, giving it all I’€™ve got, listening to the trainers, listening to the coaches to get myself prepared, to get myself ready ‘€“ that’€™s all I can ask for. I’€™m putting pressure on myself to improve every single day and work hard every single day.”

Gronkowski said it’s a realistic goal to be ready for Week 1 against the Dolphins.

“I’€™m preparing myself to my max ability right now for the first regular game,” he said. “I can’€™t say anything from here on out because it’€™s far away. So, every single day I’€™m just giving it all I’€™ve got in the rehab room, out here on the field, improve my knee, strengthen it all around, prepare myself, listen to my trainers what they have for me so I’€™m ready to go when it comes down to it. And hopefully I am.”

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Read More: 2014 training camp, Gronk, New England Patriots, nfl
Tom Brady pumps up Kenbrell Thompkins and pumps the brakes on Rob Gronkowski 07.24.14 at 5:14 pm ET
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Tom Brady is focused on another productive season in 2014. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Tom Brady is focused on another productive season in 2014. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Tom Brady had his favorite target back on the field on Thursday for the first day of Patriots camp.

But Rob Gronkowski was limited to cutting drills and catching passes in the red zone from Brady. Gronkowski ran several short patterns alongside Julian Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins and Danny Amendola but was just an observer during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. In other words, it wasn’t the “Full Gronkowski.”

That didn’t disappoint Brady too much. As a matter of fact it reminded him of the need to rely on others in the passing game.

“We’re always try to bring it, regardless of who is out there,” Brady said. “If he’€™s not out there, then we still have to find a way to do it, and I think really that’€™s a lesson that we’€™ve learned. You’€™ve got to try to win, no matter who is out there. You’€™ve got to try to compete at a high level. When you have great players like that that are on the field, it helps you a lot. Your margin of error goes up.

“But you’€™ve got to prepare for both. We’€™ve had different times over the offseason where certain guys have been in there, certain guys haven’€™t, but I don’€™t think the expectations have changed. You’€™ve still got to go out and execute the play the best way you know how to and try to do it at a high level on a consistent basis.”

Still, with Gronk on the grass fields, there was a certain electricity in the air.

“The more guys we have out here healthy, the better we’€™re going to be,” Brady said. “Everyone is working with whatever situation they’€™re in. You could be coming off injury, [or] you could be coming off a good offseason. Everyone is starting at the same place. It’€™s the first opportunity to put shoulder pads on, and now the real physical aspect of the sport comes out. In the offseason, when it’€™s just shorts and t-shirts and you’€™re throwing the ball, it’€™s about a quarter of the game. So we’€™re going to see what we’€™re made of, and we’€™ve got a lot of big tests ahead.”

That first big test is this weekend when the team gets into full pads for the first time. Next up, are the full scrimmages with the Redskins down in Richmond, Virginia prior to the preseason opener Aug. 7 at FedEx Field.

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Read More: 2014 training camp, Gronk, Kenbrell Thompkins, New England Patriots
Bill Belichick has ‘no further comment’ on text messages with Aaron Hernandez 07.23.14 at 10:28 am ET
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Bill Belichick had no further comment Wednesday on texts with Aaron Hernandez (above). (AP)

Bill Belichick had no further comment Wednesday on texts with Aaron Hernandez (above). (AP)

FOXBORO — Bill Belichick was not in the mood to talk anything but football on Wednesday, on the eve of training camp opening outside Gillette Stadium.

A TV reporter asked the Patriots head coach if he were concerned about the text messages exchanged between Aaron Hernandez and members of the Patriots organization, including Belichick himself.

“I think that was addressed by a lawyer last week and I don’t have any further comment on it,” Belichick said, referencing the statement put out last Friday night by Andrew Phelan, a partner at Bingham McCutcheon. Phelan clarified that there were not 33 pages of texts between the two sides but rather a total of 34 texts.

“Earlier this week, a report indicated that an exchange of text messages between the team’s head coach and Mr. Hernandez totaled 33 pages,” Phelan said in Friday’s statement. “While it is unknown how the texts were printed or displayed, I thought it was important to clarify that during an early investigation conducted by state prosecutors, the team produced a total of 34 text messages (not pages of texts) spanning a period of five months (December 2012 – April 2013) between the head coach and Mr. Hernandez.”

On Tuesday, Michael Fee, an attorney for Hernandez, said the dispute over text messages had been resolved.

Hernandez is in a Boston jail awaiting trial in two separate murder cases. Hernandez is accused of killing Odin Lloyd in June 2013. He was released by the Patriots before the calendar turned to July. Hernandez is also accused in the double homicide in Boston in Feb. 2012, just weeks after taking part in the Super Bowl loss to the Giants in Indianapolis.

Still, the reporter continued her line of questioning with Belichick Wednesday morning at the end of the 12-minute news conference.

Is it something you routinely do with your players, texting back and forth?

“I don’t have any further comment on it,” Belichick said.

Do you approach your new players differently now based on what [Hernandez] allegedly did weeks before camp [in 2013]?

“No further comment,” Belichick said before the news conference came to an end.

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Andrew Phelan, Bill Belichick, Michael Fee
Vince Wilfork: ‘I’m holding no type of grudge’ against Patriots 06.19.14 at 2:43 pm ET
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Vince Wilfork happy to be back with Patriots for 2014. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Vince Wilfork happy to be back with Patriots for 2014. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — All is forgiven, if not forgotten, when it comes to Vince Wilfork and the Patriots.

The perennial Pro Bowl nose tackle spoke Thursday after the conclusion of minicamp for the first time since re-working his contract to return to New England.

Wilfork tore his right Achilles last September in Atlanta and was lost for the rest of the season.

Wilfork returned to Gillette Stadium to be around the team during his rehab but that loyalty didn’t immediately earn him the benefit of the doubt with the organization.

According to multiple reports, he felt slighted by the team and asked to be traded, going as far as removing his nameplate from his locker inside the Patriots locker room.

But after agreeing to a complicated, incentive-laden $23 million, three-year extension ($4 million signing bonus) in late March, Wilfork began the process of moving on. A big step in that process came this week when he stepped on the field for minicamp practices on Tuesday. On Thursday, he spoke for the first time about his return, making it clear that business is business and he’s all about football going forward.

“I’€™m here. That’€™s a dead issue,” Wilfork said. “I’€™m here for a reason. If I didn’€™t believe in the things that were brought to me, I wouldn’€™t have signed it. I’€™m here. There’€™s a reason that I’€™m here. I’€™m not upset. I’€™m not holding no type of grudge. Business is business. Everybody handles business different ways.

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Read More: New England Patriots, nfl, Vince Wilfork,
Bill Belichick on report Patriots had Jets playbook: ‘Talk to Mike Pettine’ at 12:30 pm ET
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Mike Pettine will coach the Browns starting in 2014. (AP)

Mike Pettine will coach the Browns starting in 2014. (AP)

FOXBORO — Here we go again.

In the latest edition of Monday Morning Quarterback on SI.com, columnist Greg Bedard reports that new Browns head coach and former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine believes that old copies of the Jets playbook, circa 2011, may have wound up in the hands of the Patriots.

“The initial playbook itself is actually quite thin, and that’€™s by design,” Pettine told Bedard. “€œI don’€™t put a lot of graduate-level information in it. We know in places like New England, it’€™s only a matter of time that they somehow mysteriously end up with our playbook.”

Pettine told Bedard that there was a story circulating that at Wes Welker‘€™s wedding in 2012, Tom Brady laughed with Jets outside linebackers coach Mike Smith (Welker’€™s college roommate at Texas Tech) that the Patriots “may or may not” have had possession of some Jets defensive playbooks.

“It didn’€™t shock me because Rex would give them out like candy anyway,”€ Pettine continued. “€œHe gave one out to [Alabama coach Nick] Saban and I was like, ‘€˜Don’€™t you know Saban and Bill [Belichick] are pretty good friends? I have a feeling it’€™s going to end up in New England.’ ”

Belichick, who told reporters he was allowing just three questions before leaving for the summer, was asked about the charges after Thursday’s final minicamp session. Belichick was specifically asked if he has ever had the Jets playbook at some point.

“[Go] talk to Mike Pettine. I don’t know,” Belichick offered.

Darrelle Revis played for Mike Pettine as recently as 2012, when he tore his ACL in September in a game against the Dolphins. Revis was also asked about the playbook charges after Thursday’s minicamp. He laughed and was somewhat more insightful when asked if he knew the Patriots may have had the playbook.

“No, I don’t know anything about that,” Revis said. “I don’t know. I don’t even know how to answer that. If they did, they did. If they didn’t, they didn’t. At that point, it really doesn’t matter. You still have to go out there and compete and go out there and win the game.”

Read More: Mike Pettine, Mike Smith, New England Patriots, New York Jets
Mike Petraglia, Chris Price talk about fire that still burns in Tom Brady, end of Patriots minicamp 06.18.14 at 7:00 pm ET
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FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price assess the Patriots during June’s minicamp, look ahead to July training camp and say the competitive fire still burns in Tom Brady after a story this spring detailing the decline of the two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback.

Read More: Chris Price, Darrelle Revis, Mike Petraglia, minicamp
Tom Brady responds to criticism that he’s declining: ‘My wife [and] mom think I’ve played pretty good’ at 2:45 pm ET
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Tom Brady was all smiles after Wednesday minicamp practice at Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Tom Brady was all smiles after Wednesday minicamp practice at Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Not that he needed it, but Tom Brady was given some inspiration recently when it was written that his game is on the decline and he is no longer among the very elite quarterbacks in the NFL.

On Wednesday, he fired back, sort of.

“I’m always pretty fired up,” Brady said after minicamp practice outside a steamy Gillette Stadium. “I think there’s people who always have opinions about us as athletes. You just try to go out there and do your best and you go home at night realizing you left it all out on the field. Some days you don’t play your best but that’s sports. I try to go out there and be the best I can be this year.

“Who were they? Jets fans or Dolphins fans or Patriots fans, I don’t know. Everyone is a little biased. My wife thinks I’ve played pretty good. My mom thinks I’ve played pretty good. It doesn’t matter.”

Sam Monson, of Pro Football Focus, wrote that Brady’s game has been “in decline” for some time.

At the end of Brady’s 10-minute session with reporters, he summarized his motivation and drive to stay on top of his game, bringing up his past, including his selection in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft.

“You’ve got to do it,” Brady said of his work and work ethic. “You’ve got to put in the time. If you want to be special at this game, then you’ve got to do whatever it takes. Some things come more naturally to certain people. The mental part came pretty naturally for me. I really had to work hard on the physical part [on] what it takes to be an NFL player. There was a reason I was sixth round pick because I didn’t have much ability so I’ve got to try to work hard to improve those things over the years while still keeping my mental game sharp.”

Brady also admitted that his Brazilian supermodel wife, Gisele, will be heading to her homeland to take in the World Cup. His plans are not quite as firm.

“I was watching, yeah. It’s been pretty fun to watch the last week or so,” Brady said. “There’s a lot of good games. We’re pretty focused on the football stuff here but obviously what’s going on in the world in sports is great. I love watching.”

“I’m not sure. I haven’t finalized everything. It’s a busy time. I have three kids at home. They take up a lot of time and energy. I know my wife is heading down there, which will be fun for her.”

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Read More: Gisele, Jimmy Garoppolo, New England Patriots, nfl
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