Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, during his weekly appearance with Mut & Merloni on Friday, talked about the Patriots’ matchup Sunday against the Buccaneers.

Rob Gronkowski appears close to returning, with reports that he might play Sunday after practicing this week. However, King expects the Patriots to be cautious with the oft-injured tight end.

FOXBORO — It was certainly far from a declaration of his readiness to play on Sunday but Bill Belichick did offer an update on Rob Gronkowski when asked Friday morning if the star tight end might make his 2013 debut against Tampa Bay.

“Rob’s been out there. I think he’s getting better every day,” Belichick said. “[He's] working hard. No question about that.”

FOXBORO — As the Patriots fine tuned their preparations for the Buccaneers this Sunday at Gillette Stadium, Matthew Slater was the only player not accounted for at shorts and shells practice Friday on the upper grass fields under sunny, ideal conditions.

Slater, the captain of special teams and the unit’s top gunner, is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a broken wrist suffered in the Week 2 win over the Jets.

FOXBORO -- Dismissed for the better part of the last five-plus seasons as a mere sideshow when compared to the Patriots’ high-powered offensive extravaganza, the defense has turned the tables through the early stages of the 2013 regular season and has outplayed an inconsistent offense for most of the first two games. 

FOXBORO — The only change to the Patriots injury report from Wednesday to Thursday was the removal of cornerback Marquice Cole, who missed Wednesday’s practice because of a non-football issue — reportedly, the birth of his child. The rest of the groupings remained the same, with special teams captain Matthew Slater the only player out Thursday because of a wrist injury.

Here’s the complete report:

Did Not Practice ST Matthew Slater (wrist)

FOXBORO — Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola were both in attendance again for the media portion of Thursday’s practice on the grass fields outside Gillette Stadium. The media was only able to observe stretching Thursday so there was no indication of how much either participated in offensive plays.

Amendola was only spotted doing light running drills while Gronkowski appeared to be getting ready to take snaps with the first team offense before the media availability ended.

FOXBORO -- The return of Rob Gronkowski will mean several things for not just the Patriots passing game, but the offense in general.

FOXBORO — Dashon Goldson may have earned the reputation as one of the nastiest and hard-hitting safeties in the NFL.

Goldson had his one-game suspension rescinded on Wednesday for his hit on Darren Sproles, meaning he can play Sunday against the Patriots. He was fined $100,000 for the hit, which came one week after a $30,000 fine for a hit on Jets QB Geno Smith.

Danny Amendola (groin), Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm) and running back Brandon Bolden were among the seven players listed as “limited” for the Patriots at Wednesday’s practice.

For the second straight practice session, Amendola was spotted on the field going through drills with his teammates. During the portion of practice the media is allowed to observe, he could be seen working gingerly  through a series of drills, clearly not at full speed.

Rob Gronkowski said Wednesday he has “progressed significantly” over the last couple of weeks, but didn’t want to put a timetable on a potential return to the field.

The big tight end, who underwent offseason surgery on his back and forearm, has ramped up his practice routine, but still has not played in a regular season game to this point.