FOXBORO — Bill Belichick is doing his best not to feed into the mystery surrounding Rob Gronkowski.
The Patriots superstar tight end missed the first day of mandatory mini-camp Tuesday at Gillette Stadium. When asked, the Patriots coach hinted that Gronkowski was actually in the building but just not practicing on the field.
“There are a lot of players that were not on the field,” Belichick told reporters in the heat of the sun. “They were doing other things.”
Was Gronkowski expected to be there?
“All of our players are. They’re doing other things,” Belichick said.
What wasn’t clear from the answer was whether Belichick was indicating that all players are expected to be at camp or whether, indeed, they “are” in the building.
Gronkowski has been spotted often recently around Boston, including at the Myra Kraft MVP Community awards last week, where he took a break from working out to make an appearance with Tom Brady at Gillette’s Putnam Club.
Gronkowski was one of several players not spotted Tuesday. Also not on hand were Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, LeGarrette Blount, Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer.
Belichick was also asked if all players reported to mini-camp.
“I don’t know. Whoever is here is here,” the coach said.
There were special guests on hand Tuesday for the start of mini-camp as members of the Navy football coaching staff stood on the side and observed.
“They’re just up here to watch what we’re doing. We have a great relationship with Ken [Niumatalolo],” Belichick said of the head coach of the Midshipmen. “He’s been a good friend and everything I’ve asked, he’s always been there for me.”
Joe Cardona, a graduate of the Naval Academy in 2015, reported to mini-camp on Tuesday. He is beginning his second year with the Patriots.
Belichick said he didn’t know the status of his long-snapper and his availability going forward this summer or whether Naval commitments might take precedence.
“Just keep making progress,” Belichick said. “Each day, just try to build on the day before. A lot of new faces, a lot of new installation, so just grind through it day by day.
“We’re all starting all over. We’re all starting all over, coaches, players, everybody. It’s a new year, we’re all starting over.”