New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had set a goal of returning from a torn anterior cruciate ligament by September, has been fully cleared for training camp.
The first team practice is scheduled for Thursday, and coach Bill Belichick confirmed Gronkowski will be on the field, not on the physically unable to perform list.
“He’s been here,” coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday at Gillette Stadium. “He would be ineligible to (appear on PUP list) because he’s been cleared to play.”
Gronkowski hurt his knee Week 14 against the Cleveland Browns. His entire 2013 calendar year was filled by injuries and rehab, including multiple surgeries on his forearm and a procedure on his back. He missed six games in 2013 and was limited into the regular season.
The 25-year-old, who also had back issues at the University of Arizona, is a two-time Pro Bowl selection with 42 career touchdown receptions since entering the NFL as a second-round pick in 2010.
“It’s a positive,” guard Logan Mankins said. “We were all hoping Gronk would have a good recovery and so far he has. We’ll just see where he is and how good he is right now. It’s great to have him out there. He’s a dynamic blocker. He does a great job blocking and he’s a big target for Tom (Brady) to get the ball to when he gets open. Any time you can have Gronk on the field, it’s great.”
Belichick did not disclose a snap count or any limitations for Gronkowski in training camp, but it’s possible he’ll be a spectator for preseason games.
“Rob has always worked hard,” Belichick said. “He worked hard as a rookie, so he has always worked hard when he’s here. I can’t speak for the rest of the time, but from what we’ve seen he has been consistent.”
In other camp news, the Patriots re-signed first-year wide receiver Greg Orton, who joined the practice squad on Dec. 31, 2013, and was released by the team on May 22, 2014. The 6-foot-3, 199-pounder spent part of 2011 and all of 2012 on the Denver practice squad and went to training camp with Denver in 2013. He originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with the Cincinnati Bengals out of Purdue in 2009. Orton also played in the Arena Football League.
To make room on the roster, wide receiver Tyler McDonald, 23, was released. McDonald signed to the roster on July 18.