FOXBORO — When Rob Ninkovich takes the field Sunday against Tampa Bay he’ll be doing so with a brand new contract extension in tow.

FOXBORO — The NFL has handed out over $70,000 in fines for the fracas between the Jets and Patriots on Sept. 12 at Gillette Stadium.

The fight broke out when Jets center Nick Mangold hit Aqib Talib near the knees after Talib’s second interception of the night of Geno Smith sealed the Patriots’ 13-10 win. Mangold claimed that he lost his balance and hit Talib accidentally and Talib agreed, saying it appeared to be unintentional.

FOXBORO — For the first time this season, Rob Gronkowski is not doubtful to play in a game.

The Patriots tight end, who has been practicing with the team since being taken off PUP on Aug. 31, was again limited in practice on Friday but the team has officially listed him as questionable for Sunday against Tampa Bay on the official injury report. He has been limited all week and was considered to be a 50-50 proposition to play on Sunday earlier in the week.

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.