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Pats’ Gronkowski sheds boot, sounds ready to play

By Howard Ulman, The Associated Press
Mark Humphrey | AP | BDN
Mark Humphrey | AP | BDN
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski makes his way to Media Day for NFL football's Super Bowl XLVI Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012, in Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS — The boot is off and Rob Gronkowski’s ankle is feeling much better. New England’s All-Pro tight end shed his walking boot in time for media day Tuesday, and sounded optimistic he’d be lining up against the New York Giants in the Super Bowl on Sunday.

“I’m improving every day,” Gronkowski said. “The only reason it’s getting so blown up is because it’s the Super Bowl. It’s just like any other injury during any other week.”

Gronkowski, who suffered a high left ankle sprain in the AFC title game Jan. 22, said he could be anywhere from in perfect health to “2 percent” for the game, adding that it’s still six days away.

The outgoing Gronkowski smiled frequently from the podium during his hour-long appearance that opened with a question, of course, about how he was feeling.

“Good. How are you feeling?” he replied.

At one point, Gronkowski even put on a red tri-cornered hat, reminiscent of those worn by the original patriots during the era of the American Revolution.

“He’s obviously making progress,” quarterback Tom Brady said of his key pass-catcher. “He’s out of his boot today, which makes me feel a lot better. I told him he should write like ‘Mom I love you’ on his sock or something because I’m sure there’ll be a lot of pictures of his sock.

“If anybody wants to be out there, it’s him. No one’s as tough as him.”

Gronkowski was careful not to convey an overly optimistic attitude about his chances of playing, repeatedly saying he was working with the Patriots training staff and approaching the situation on a day-to-day basis.

He also was non-committal when asked if he could play if he had the injury during the regular season.

“I couldn’t answer that,” he said. “It’s not a regular-season game. It’s the Super Bowl this week and (we’re) just preparing like it’s a big game and it’s the biggest game. It ain’t no regular-season game. So you’ve got to treat it a lot differently.”

Gronkowski set an NFL record for his position this season with 17 touchdown catches and had 90 receptions overall for 1,327 yards. He’s made a team-high 15 catches for a 15.5-yard average and three touchdowns in the postseason. He also developed into a powerful blocker.

He missed the Patriots last three practices on Thursday, Friday and Monday. They didn’t practice on Tuesday.

But many of his teammates are confident that he’ll be ready to play.

“Rob’s a big boy. He’s tough and everything else, so I’m not too worried about him,” wide receiver Wes Welker said. “I know he’s going to give his best out there and do whatever he can do to help us win the game.”

“We’re trying to get everybody to play,” linebacker Tracy White said. “We’re not too worried about Gronkowski. He’ll be out there.”

Gronkowski has started every game this season and was healthy for nearly every practice before the ankle injury.

“I think he’ll be fine, but it would obviously change the game a lot” if he’s not, tight end Aaron Hernandez said. “It would basically be like playing without our main player.”

SUPER BOWL NOTEBOOK: I’ll see your chowda, and raise you a cheesecake. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is betting chips, pies and bowls of New England clam chowder that his Patriots will win Super Bowl XLVI. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is putting bagels, yogurt and cheesecake on the line in support of the Giants. The bet for Sunday’s NFL championship game highlights regional cuisine that this year will be donated to local food banks.

If the Giants lose Sunday’s game, Cuomo will send 46 cases of New York-made yogurt, 46 dozen bagels from Manhattan’s Ess-a-Bagel and 46 cheesecakes from Junior’s in Brooklyn to a Massachusetts food bank. If the Patriots lose, Patrick will send 46 pies from The Pie Ladies in Centerville, 46 cases of chips made in Needham Heights and clam chowder from Boston-based Legal Seafoods.

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