BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (AP) — Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has been cleared from the concussion protocol and will play in Sunday’s Super Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Gronkowski participated fully in practice on Thursday. Defensive lineman Deatrich Wise also practiced after being cleared from the concussion protocol. Malcolm Butler (illness) and Brandon King (knee) also participated in the workout.
Gronk said he is “ready to roll” and has no limitations. He had been sidelined since taking a helmet-to-helmet hit from Jacksonville’s Barry Church in the first half of New England’s AFC championship game win.
The All-Pro tight end missed last year’s Super Bowl win over Atlanta after undergoing back surgery.
Gronkowski said he believes that the team doctors were just using the bye week to be as cautious with the injury as possible.
“We knew the whole time I was gonna be good to go,” he said. “I was progressing really good throughout the week. We just knew I’d be ready and we’ve been practicing like we always do.”
Gronkowski led the team in receiving during the regular season with 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.
His return gives quarterback Tom Brady another key option against an Eagles defense that finished the regular season ranked fourth in the NFL in defense.
Philadelphia is giving up 229 yards per game through the air in the playoffs. New England comes in averaging 318 yards passing during the postseason.
“He’s a dynamic player. He means a ton to our offense. He really has since he got to our team. It’s always great when he’s out there,” Brady said.
“I’ve played with him a long time, I’ve thrown him a lot of footballs. He knows exactly what to do, he knows where to expect the ball, when to expect it. He’s just a tremendous player for our team.”
In addition to Gronk’s return to practice, the Patriots also got a visit from former defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, who won Super Bowls with New England during the 2004 and 2014 seasons.
Gronkowski said it was always nice to have “a great teammate” such as Wilfork around, but declined to say what words of motivation he offered the team.
“What he said was definitely inspiring — to just cherish the moment,” Gronkowski said. “But other than that, it was good for our team. And I’ll just keep it at that.”
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