FOXBORO -- Aaron Hernandez returned to practice Thursday for the first time since injuring his ankle in the first quarter of New England's Week 2 game against the Cardinals. He took part in a few drills during the media access period and didn't appear to be limping noticeably, though he also didn't look to be going full speed.
Rob Gronkowski also returned to practice after missing Wednesday's session with a hip injury. Fellow tight end Michael Hoomanawanui was back on the field as well after sitting out Wednesday's practice because of a concussion.
Missing from the early part of Thursday's practice were safety Steve Gregory, receiver Julian Edelman and cornerback Ras-I Dowling. Gregory (hip) and Edelman (hand) did not participate in Wednesday's practice.
Players were outside in a light drizzle and wore shells and shorts.
She hadn't been able to get to a game all season, but Tom Brady had a feeling that his mom would be well enough to make it to the last one.
"He said, 'You'll be ready for the Super Bowl,' " Tom Brady Sr. told NFL Network's Andrea Kremer. "He told us that in the middle of the season. At the end of her five months was going to be two weeks before the Super Bowl."
Brady's mom, Galynn, was diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer of 2016 and was undergoing chemotherapy throughout that season. As she focused on her treatments (which were scheduled for Thursday mornings), Galynn and Tom Sr. spent Sundays watching their son's games from afar.
"Everything centered around 10 o'clock on Thursday morning," Tom Sr. said, "and then 10 o'clock on Sunday morning when we focused on the football games."
The Patriots continued to win, and the end of their season continued to be pushed back, making it possible for Galynn and Tom Sr. to attend their son's seventh Super Bowl. She was cleared for travel by her doctors on the day before the family's scheduled trip to Houston.
"I just wanted to be there for Tommy, and I wanted to be there with my family," she said. "Everybody was going to the Super Bowl, and I didn't want to miss that."
Kremer's piece aired Sunday on NFL Network's NFL GameDay Morning, as the league and the American Cancer Society work together this month on their Crucial Catch campaign. It's online now at NFL.com.