Jimmy Garoppolo has a fan in Rob Gronkowski. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Jimmy Garoppolo has a fan in Rob Gronkowski. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — While there’s some uncertainty around the Patriots quarterback position for the first four games of the season, it sounds like Rob Gronkowski believes New England will be in good hands if it has to turn to Jimmy Garoppolo.

The big tight end talked Monday about the progress Garoppolo has made, and sounds like someone who would believe in the Eastern Illinois product if he has to start the first four games of the year in place of Tom Brady.

“He’s doing great — definitely,” Gronkowski said of Garoppolo. “You can see a huge development over the last two years in the way he handles the offense now. He’s doing a great job going out there, listening to coaches and just working together with the whole team.”

That’s not to say he’s lost faith in Brady. Gronkowski, who arrived in 2010, is the senior member of the Patriots’ skill positional group, and he said the quarterback looks like pretty much the same guy since the tight end was a rookie.

“He looks pretty good. No, he look’s great,” Gronkowski said. “He looks the same every day that I’ve been here. He’s always coming out with a competitive edge, his arm always looks strong. His football knowledge, you don’t have to talk about it, it’s second to none. He looks very sharp.”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Rob Gronkowski was all smiles after Monday's OTA session. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)FOXBORO -- Put the offseason speculation machine into mothballs.



Dion Lewis makes a cut during a pass route Monday during practice. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Dion Lewis makes a cut during a pass route Monday during practice. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — No one would blame Dion Lewis if he felt sorry for himself after his ACL tear last Nov. 8 against the Redskins at Gillette Stadium.

After all, this was a player who had a broken leg in the preseason of 2013 that kept him out of NFL regular season game action until last season.

That’s when the Patriots decided to make him a big part of their offense and a key weapon out of the backfield. The Patriots finally had their change-of-pace back who could run between the tackles, run to the edge and catch passes in the flat and in wheel routes.

Then his left knee gave out on a cut in the first half against Washington and his heart sank. At the time, no one not named Tom Brady accounted for more yards from scrimmage than Lewis. He caught 36 passes on 50 targets for 388 yards and two touchdowns. He also had two rushing touchdowns to go with 234 yards on 49 carries in his seven games.

“I knew it was bad. I never hurt my knee before. I knew it was bad,” said Lewis, who made his return to the practice field Monday during the final week of OTAs before training camp this summer. “I was upset. The pain wasn’t really that bad. It was just the fact that I wasn’t going to be out there and playing with my teammates. That’s what hurt the most.

“It was tough. I love the game. Being away, it meant a lot. It hurt a lot. I just wanted to work as hard as I can this offseason, rehab as hard as I can and hopefully, I’ll have a lot of fun in September.”

Lewis has always appreciated the game he loves. But now that appreciation has reached a new level.

“Just cherish football,” Lewis said Monday after OTA practice. “I love football. When I was away from it, it sucked, so I just told myself I was going to work as hard as possible to be back as fast as possible. I’m just still trying to get better and stronger every day.

“It makes me a stronger person for it, that’s for sure.”

There was Lewis Monday, making cuts, catching passes and joining his fellow running backs in drills with coach Ivan Fears egging him on.

“It feels good to do football stuff. It’s been a while. [I was] a little rusty. Just trying to be myself again. Just got to keep working.”

Lewis was not wearing a brace on the repaired left knee, just a black athletic sleeve, which he proudly displayed. What he also made clear is that he has no intent on changing the way he plays (or cuts) just because of the non-contact injury from last November.

“That’s the only way I know how to play. I’m going to play the same exact way I always play. That’s who I am,” Lewis said. “Hey, I just work hard. That’s all I can do.

“It’s different. Working hard coming off this is not necessarily [about] working real hard [physically]. You have to stay within the guidelines and do what you’re told. That was kind of the hard part for me, just not being able to do stuff I thought I could do or taking it slower than I think I should. The trainers did a great job. I’ve been here so long with these guys and I see them too much.”

“That’s part of my job as a professional, is to work hard. I really just wanted to be back so bad. When I come back, I want to be me, and that’s the only player I know how to be, is me. I think working hard will help me be me quicker. I think me being me will help the team win, and I’m all about the team. Whatever I do is the for the team. I love football. When I couldn’t be out there with my team after I got hurt, it hurt. I just used that as motivation.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — The smile told it all Monday afternoon outside Gillette Stadium.

Rob Gronkowski all smiles after returning to practice field Monday during OTAs. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Rob Gronkowski all smiles after returning to practice field Monday during OTAs. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — The smile told it all Monday afternoon outside Gillette Stadium.

Rob Gronkowski broke into his trademark grin as he addressed reporters for the second time in three days but for the first time since returning to the practice field Monday during OTAs.

“It felt great. It’s always good to be out there with your teammates, working with your teammates in individual drills, team drills,” Gronkowski said. “Just being out there, getting on the same page and just going into a flow with them. It’s always good to get back on the field.”

Gronkowski spent most of the session working on passing drills with Tom Brady and new tight end Martellus Bennett. Then he took some turns lining up in two-minute drills with no defense. He took part in a limited number of reps with the offense as they lined up in the non-contact, no pads practice against the defense.

Gronkowski also indicated, when asked, that last week’s absence at mandatory mini-camp was not necessarily injury-related and that he was with the team at Gillette Stadium.

“I was just doing other things, as Coach said, last week,” Gronkowski said. “Everything’s good. We were just working on other things. Everything’s all smooth, everything’s good.”

So what, exactly, is the biggest value at this point of OTAs to him?

“The biggest value is consistency, going out there and making sure you’re still on the same page,” he said. “You don’t want to lose it. You want to keep on getting gains. You want to improve on improving, go out there and make sure to knock all the rust out, we’re always on the same page and just don’t lose it. So, keep going out, working hard and getting better.”

Gronkowski said this year doesn’t feel any different than any other spring OTA sessions since he’s been in New England.

“It’s OTAs. It feels the same every time now, every year, so just go out there, keep your football legs under you, which is great, running routes, stay in football shape,” Gronkowski said. “What is cool about it is it brings the competitiveness out of you. You just can’t go out there in your backyard or just out on the field and just throwing with the quarterbacks. Going versus someone, having someone across from you gets you back in that right feeling, like it’s a game.”

Gronkowski said he’s pumped about sharing time with Bennett.

“It’s great. It’s great to be out there with him,” he said. “It’s another guy that brings a lot of football knowledge to the game, in the meeting rooms. I think he’s going on his ninth year. He has so much experience and he’s been with a few teams, been with a few coaches. He’s played all around. So, it’s great to get so much knowledge from him and the coaches. And going out on the field, he’s a hard worker. He puts some dedication in so it’s great to be with him out there.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Before:

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@cpriceNFL ugh. pic.twitter.com/FxpNr3EuOC

— maggie (@Maggiebella) June 12, 2016

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FOXBORO — Rob Gronkowski and Dion Lewis were among those back on the field for the OTA session Monday on the fields behind Gillette Stadium, the final one of the year open to the media.

Gronkowski and Lewis were among those absent for the first OTAs of the spring, but the two were back on the field Monday. According to a source, Gronkowski was at Gillette Stadium earlier this spring, just not on the field with the rest of his teammates for the spring workouts. As for Lewis, he suffered a torn ACL late in the 2015 season, and was lost for the rest of the year.

For the record — with the understanding that it was an OTA session without pads and held in shorts, shells and helmets — both did not appear to be hindered in any way. The pair of them took plenty of reps (Gronkowski especially in the earlygoing), although in the uptempo work at the end of practice, it looked like James White was getting a few more reps alongside Tom Brady, while Lewis was working with a Jimmy Garoppolo-led offense later on.

When it came to the rest of the attendance, the following players were NOT spotted on the field during the workout: kicker Stephen Gostkowski, wide receiver Julian Edelman, cornerback Logan Ryan, running back D.J. Foster, running back LeGarrette Blount, defensive back Duron Harmon, defensive back Nate Ebner, long snapper Joe Cardona, offensive lineman Tre; Jackson, offensive lineman Josh Kline, offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer, offensive lineman Nate Solder, wide receiver Danny Amendola, defensive lineman Alan Branch.

The quarterback reps were distributed according to the depth chart; that is to say, Brady, Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, in that order. With a few more of the skill position players on the field, it was a little easier to get a sense of where some of them were at this stage of the offseason. At the same time, the fact that it was an OTA session (and not a minicamp or training camp, for that matter) meant that all action still needed to be taken with a grain of salt. One note that was worth passing along was the sight of Martellus Bennett and Gronkowski working off to the side with Garoppolo and Brissett while most of the rest of the roster was involved in special teams work. (While that was going on, Brady, Nate Washington. Chris Harper and Aaron Dobson were chatting with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.)

In 11-on-11s, Garoppolo made a sweet connection down the sideline to DeAndre Carter. Brissett had a pass tipped and picked off by Brock Vereen. And Brady made a sweet connection with Chris Hogan in 11-on-11s at the end of workouts.

Cyrus Jones was working as a kick returner, part of a group that included Keshawn Martin and Malcolm Mitchell. Mitchell, Jones, Martin and V’Angelo Bentley were also working as punt returners. (Jones muffed at least one, as far as I could tell.) At one point, the quartet was asked to catch a punt with a football already in their hands, and Mitchell dropped a few.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

There were two new faces on the field Monday for the Patriots at their final OTA session open to the media.

After missing all of minicamp last week, Rob Gronkowski was out on the field, as was Dion Lewis. Lewis is coming off ACL surgery last November, so it appears his recovery is going well.

Offensive lineman Shaq Mason was also present for the first time this spring.

There were two new faces on the field Monday for the Patriots at their final OTA session open to the media.

After missing all of minicamp last week, Rob Gronkowski was out on the field, as was Dion Lewis. Lewis is coming off ACL surgery last November, so it appears his recovery is going well.

Offensive lineman Shaq Mason was also present for the first time this spring.

Here is video of Gronkowski catching a pass from Tom Brady.

Blog Author: 
WEEI

Tom Brady is a lot of things: quarterback, mattress pitchman, husband. But he’s not a Formula 1 driver.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price