Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports made his weekly appearance on Mut & Merloni on Friday to discuss Sunday night's Patriots-49ers showdown and talk about other news from around the NFL.

The Patriots are coming off a rout of the AFC-leading Texans that moved them into position to take over the No. 1 seed, but King said there'e too much emphasis on home-field advantage.

FOXBORO -- Rob Gronkowski returned to practice on Friday as the Patriots worked out in sweats and shells inside Gillette Stadium on the main field. 

Gronkowski broke his left forearm blocking on the final extra point in New England's 59-28 win over the Colts on Nov. 18. He had surgery the next day and has missed the last three games. Gronkowski was wearing blue long sleeves with no apparent extra padding on the left arm. He was spotted squeezing his left hand during sprints at the start of practice in an apparent test of strength in the arm. 

NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning to preview Sunday's Patriots-49ers game and discuss news from around the league.

Although the Patriots blew out the Texans on Monday, Lombardi said the 49ers game will be much more difficult.

California native Tom Brady had to have known the question was coming this week in Foxboro. How does he compare to his childhood idol, Joe Montana?



At the age of 31, he’s carved out a career as one of the best big men in the NFL. He’s been to four Pro Bowls, voted a second-team All-Pro twice and been a Super Bowl winner. He’s also been a part of two other teams that have made it all the way to the big game.

FOXBORO -- Rob Gronkowski was officially listed as "limited" in his return to Patriots practice on Friday and the team lists him as questionable for a Sunday night return to action against the 49ers at Gillette Stadium. 

Niners edge rusher Aldon Smith doesn't sound intimidated by the Patriots offense, saying Thursday that San Francisco has "played good offenses before" and adding, "We can stop them."

Sounding a cautious tone three days before a potential matchup with Randy Moss, Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib said Thursday that he's doing his best to be ready to play against the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday night at Gillette Stadium after suffering a hip injury late in the first half of Monday's win over the Texans.

"Just [a] day-to-day injury," Talib told reporters after practice Thursday. "[Just] working hard three times a day trying to get healthy."

Rob Gronkowski was the only member of the Patriots not on the field at the start of Thursday's practice session, according to reports. The tight end, who also did not participate in Wednesday's walk-through, is battling hip and forearm issues. Notables who were back on the field include defensive lineman Kyle Love. In addition, cornerbacks Kyle Arrington, Alfonzo Dennard and Aqib Talib have been banged up lately, but were all on the field at the start of practice Thursday.

The Randy Moss who will face the Patriots Sunday night at Gillette Stadium isn’t the same guy who left New England two-plus years ago.