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Rob Gronkowski: Performance against Dolphins shows ‘there’s much room for improvement’ 09.11.14 at 3:50 pm ET
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For Rob Gronkowski, last Sunday represented a starting point.

In his first game back since suffering a season-ending knee injury last December against the Browns, the big tight end had four catches for 40 yards and a touchdown against the Dolphins.

Now, he wants to try and build on that going forward. One point of emphasis for Gronkowski is improving his catch rate — he did have four receptions, but on a whopping 11 targets.

“That obviously shows there’€™s much room for improvement,” he told reporters after practice on Thursday. “You don’€™t want to have only four [catches] when you had 11 thrown your way. It starts on the practice field, so we’€™ve just been working, getting chemistry down with the wide receivers [and] timing with the quarterback.

“I just have to keep improving, every single week. Keep on going out there during practice, running around more, blocking, and just overall improving throughout all areas of the game. Whatever the coaches have for me, that’€™s what I’€™ve got to go out there and perform.”

In his first game back in action — after not playing at all over the course of the preseason — Gronkowski finished with 38 of a possible 86 offensive snaps, a total Gronkowski referred to as “the perfect amount,” considering that he was still “just coming back and getting my toes wet and everything.” Despite the fact that he was worked all summer long (most of the time in individual sessions with quarterback Tom Brady off to the side in practice), it’s clear conditioning and football fitness will be an issue as he continues to get back to being somewhere near 100 percent.

“For myself, when I couldn’€™t be out there the whole time, [I was] working with the training staff,” he said. “I felt I was pretty good out there [but], you never can be too well-conditioned.

“You can never get enough of that, and you always want to be as well-conditioned as you can be so you can perform to the max of your ability out there.”

For what it’s worth, Gronkowski said it felt good to hit and get hit, and engage in a little smashing and dashing again with his teammates.

“It’€™s just like anything; I’€™ve been playing football for so long, so right when I got back out there, first time I got hit, it all comes back naturally,” he said. “It didn’€™t feel like anything, it just felt like playing football again, which was great.

“It’€™s the NFL — whenever you play a game you’€™re always sore, next day, next few days. You work it out during practice, you work through it and you get ready for the next week all the time.”

Going forward, Sunday represents his first career start against the Vikings, a team that represents a sizable challenge for a New England team seeking its first win of the year.

“They’€™re fast and they’€™re big,” Gronkowski said of the Vikings. “We’€™ve just got to execute as a team together, because they’€™ve got a pretty good defense for sure and they know how to play defense. Their guys are always in the right spot at the right time, they know how to read the quarterback well [and] so we’€™ve got to be prepared to our max ability and work together as a team to get some yards.”

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Ryan Wendell, Rob Gronkowski among 5 limited on Patriots injury report 09.10.14 at 4:28 pm ET
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Ryan Wendell

Ryan Wendell

Five players were listed as limited on the Patriots injury report on Wednesday, including tight end Rob Gronkowski (knee) and center Ryan Wendell (knee).

Gronkowski, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last December, is still working to get back to 100 percent, while Wendell apparently left the game late Sunday with a knee issue that required attention.

However, three notable players who were not listed include quarterback Tom Brady, who popped up on the injury report last week with a calf issue, and wide receiver Aaron Dobson, who sat out the opener last week against the Dolphins with a foot problem, one that has dogged him all the way back to last year. In addition, it appeared late in Sunday’s game that cornerback Darrelle Revis was being worked on on the sidelines — Revis later said was a cramping issue and not a hamstring problem.

Here’s the complete injury report:

DE Michael Buchanan (ankle)
TE Rob Gronkowski (knee)
DL Chris Jones (ankle)
DL Sealver Siliga (hand)
C Ryan Wendell (knee)

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Bill Belichick on D&H: Patriots ‘need to do everything better’ 09.08.14 at 5:55 pm ET
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick joined Dale & Holley on Monday to discuss Sunday’s game against the Dolphins. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley on demand page.

New England’s loss came in part due to poor play in the second half, as the Patriots were outscored 23-0 in the latter part of the game. Belichick said the team was able to look at the loss more in depth Monday.

“I saw [the game] in a lot more detail,” he said. “I had a real good chance to look to every play real closely, watch every player and watch what Miami’s doing and how it matched up. It’s a lot better looking at it than it is on the sideline.

“There were some good things, there were some positive things, there were obviously a lot things we need to work on. It’s a combination of that, it’s what it usually is. We had some opportunities and we didn’t take advantage of them. We need to coach better, we play better, need to do everything better. All three phases of the game.”

Despite being down late in the game, Belichick said he felt the Patriots had a chance to make a late comeback and win the game.

“I felt like the whole fourth quarter we had good opportunities there,” the coach added. “We had a couple of big defensive series where we forced three-and-outs, we had the ball in good field position, we had a penalty on offensive pass interference that kind knocked us out of scoring range. We punted back to them inside the 20-yard line. We had a roughing the passer penalty. Then they converted three third downs, the last one being third-and-goal on the 4. We had a chance for a stop there.”

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Tom Brady on D&C: ‘I’ve got to get better at a lot of things’ at 10:05 am ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance on Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning, following Sunday’s 33-20 loss to the Dolphins, and talked about his disappointing performance that led him to shave off his much-talked-about beard. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Patriots led 20-10 at the half but could do nothing after the break as the Dolphins took control.

“We had some great rhythm there in the first half. We’ve just got to figure out a way how to carry that over to the second half,” Brady said. “We’re going to continue to try to make improvements in September and October and November and December. That’s what football is. It’s not a game of perfect. It’s about minimizing your mistakes and capitalizing on opportunities. We didn’t really capitalize on the opportunities, and we didn’t really minimize our mistakes, and that leads to losses in the NFL.

“That’s a good lesson for us to learn. Hopefully it motivates us to go out there and practice better this week so we have a much better performance next week.”

While the blame obviously can be shared for the offensive struggles, Brady is willing to take his share.

“When we’re open down the field I’ve got to hit them,” he said. “I think that’s how I look at it. We’ve got to make more plays down the field to get more chunks, to shorten the field a little bit. It certainly wasn’t our best day passing the ball yesterday. Our execution and our efficiency was poor really over the course of the whole day.

“It comes down to us being on the same page and our communication and our anticipation and all of us working harder to try to get the outcome to be better than what it was yesterday.”

Brady was sacked four times and rushed on numerous other occasions, and it appeared the pressure affected him by making him release the ball earlier than desired even when the pocket was not collapsing.

“I’ve played long enough that it’s one of those things that, look, if you feel the pressure and you don’t want to take sacks you’ve got to get rid of it. But there’s other opportunities where, look, I’ve got plenty of time to throw and I’ve got to find the open guy and I can’t just rush it because I got rushed on the play before,” he said. “That’s where discipline and situational awareness really comes in for the quarterback. I’ve got to do a better job of that.  There were definitely times yesterday where I had more opportunities to take time to really scan the field and find the open player and I didn’t do that. Those are the things I’ve got to get better at. I’ve got to get better at a lot of things. If our team’s going to be a good team then they need me to play as well as I possibly can. I can certainly play a lot better than the way I played yesterday.”

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Rob Gronkowski: ‘It was good getting acclimated out there’ 09.07.14 at 6:11 pm ET
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — When Rob Gronkowski caught his first touchdown pass of the season from Tom Brady just 47 seconds into the second quarter, he unleashed his trademark spike and the Patriots went up 17-7.

Everything was going according to plan. He was getting his red zone opportunities in his first game back from his right ACL tear and the Patriots were dictating the pace of the game.

Then the wheels fell off in the second half. He appeared in just one of 13 snaps in the third quarter as the Patriots were outscored 23-0 in the second half, losing 33-20 Sunday in Miami.

“€œI mean it feels good to play football again, to be out there with the team,” Gronkowski said of his first action of any kin since last Dec. 8. “Being out there with your teammates, you win as a team, lose as a team. I just got to keep on improving every single week. I got a lot of things to work on. I got to keep working hard out there in practice.’€

And the knee?

“€œEverything feels good,” Gronkowski said. “I mean I feel good, so we’€™ll just keep on playing and have a good practice week, this week, and just got to keep working hard to get better. Definitely can improve in a lot of areas.’€

Gronkowski finished with four catches for 40 yards and a touchdown as Brady targeted him 11 times on the day, including in the second quarter when he broke free of Brent Grimes in the end zone, a classic case of Gronk using his size to separate and get open for a six-yard score.

“It always it feels good to get the first one,” Gronkowski said. “Just literally a little slant and [QB] Tom [Brady] scrambled and he scrambled and saw me going across the end zone and he hit me on the pass. I just got to keep on improving, keep on making plays like that. We got to make more plays, as a team and got to keep on improving.’€

As for playing just one snap in the third quarter, Gronkowski said it had nothing to do with his conditioning in the heat and humidity.

“We’ve been practicing in the heat a lot so that’s not it. They were just the better team out there today and got to give them credit. Whatever the coaches had. When they called the plays, that’s when I went in. I thought it was good, getting me acclimated out there and feel good. Just have to keep working hard this week.”

Gronkowski said the timing with Brady, as is the case with everybody else in a Patriots uniform, can improve.

“It was fine,” Gronkowski said. “I definitely can improve. That’s what practice is for and that’s what playing the game is for. I know we haven’t played in a game in a while but you can always improve in every area.”

“They just played better. They have a good team, they’ve got a good defense and we just have to go out there and play as a team better, make more plays definitely, including myself. They’re just a good team overall and we have to go out there and execute better.”

Read More: Gronk, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski
Report: Rob Gronkowski will play on limited basis at 11:07 am ET
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Rob Gronkowski is expected to play Sunday against the Dolphins but on a limited basis, according to a report from Pro Football Talk.

The big tight end, who did not play in the preseason after suffering a season-ending knee injury last December, was listed as questionable on the Patriots injury report Friday.

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Tom Brady (calf), Rob Gronkowski (knee) officially questionable for Sunday season opener 09.05.14 at 4:47 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady returned to practice Friday but the team listed him as limited with his calf injury and formally declared him questionable for Sunday’s season opener in Miami. Joining Brady as officially questionable are tight end Rob Gronkowski, returning from his ACL injury of last December, and defensive tackle Sealver Siliga, nursing a hand injury from the first week of the preseason.

A league source confirmed to WEEI that Brady traveled with the team on their charter and is expected to play Sunday, as Brady himself announced on Thursday night in a national radio interview with Westwood One Radio. The team tweeted a picture of Gronkowski leaving the stadium with his luggage on Friday, also packed for the trip to Miami, where he is expected to suit up for the first time since his ACL tear on Dec. 8 last year and play.

Under NFL injury policy, a declaration of “questionable” technically means that the team believes the player has a 50-50 chance of playing.

Despite practicing this week, defensive end Michael Buchanan and defensive lineman Chris Jones were ruled out with ankle issues.

For the Dolphins, they suffered a setback when starting outside linebacker Philip Wheeler was ruled out with a thumb injury. Wheeler was limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Wheeler joins center Mike Pouncey (hip), defensive end Terrence Fede (knee) and linebacker Jordan Tripp (chest) as those ruled out for Sunday. Left guard Billy Turner is doubtful with a foot injury.

The complete Patriots report is as follows:

QB Tom Brady (calf) QUESTIONABLE
TE Rob Gronkowski (knee) QUESTIONABLE
DT Sealver Siliga (hand) QUESTIONABLE
DT Chris Jones (ankle) OUT
DE Michael Buchanan (ankle) OUT

Read More: Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Philip Wheeler, Rob Gronkowski
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