Eight days before Super Sunday, the Patriots and their fans got some very good news Saturday.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski was back on the practice field at Gillette Stadium. Gronkowski has been out since suffering a concussion in the AFC Championship Game victory over the Jaguars last Sunday. Here's how he looked, via NBCBoston's Perry Russom:
The Jags' Barry Church, by the way, was fined $24,309 by the NFL for the helmet-to-helmet hit that injured Gronkowski, according to ESPN's Mike Reiss.
Defensive lineman Deatrich Wise, who also sustained a concussion against the Jags, was also back. The Boston Herald reported that despite practicing, Gronkowski still is out of the NFL's concussion protocol. Being cleared to participate in non-contact practices is the fourth step of a five-step process.
Defensive lineman Malcom Brown (foot) was the only player absent from practice Saturday.
Still, it's a good sign that Tom Brady's top target is back on the field more than a week before the Pats take on the Eagles in Minneapolis.
Brady practiced without a glove on his throwing hand for the first time since he injured it at practice in the week leading up to the AFC title game. He had the black tape across the cut below his thumb just as he wore in the victory over the Jags.
The Patriots will practice in Foxboro Sunday before leaving for Minneapolis on Monday after a send-off rally at Gillette Stadium at 9 a.m.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's potential retirement has been the main storyline of the team's offseason workouts. After telling Oprah Winfrey in an interview that he is thinkning about retirement more than he used to, the five-time Super Bowl champion wrote a cryptic response to an ESPN Instagram post.
The photo contained the full retirement quote from the Oprah interview, while Brady's account sent a response saying, "Cuarenta y cinco," which means 45 in Spanish. Brady turns 41 on August 3rd, which would give him at least four more years under center for New England if he wants to play to 45 years old.
There is also the chance that the response alludes to a potential contract extension where Brady could want $45 million in potential negotiations. Brady reportedly wanted a new contract back in April, as he is signed through 2019 making a $14 million base salary that ranks fifth among NFL quarterbacks.
According to MMQB's Albert Breer on Monday, the New England Patriots reportedly talked to four "trusted" teams about a potential trade for the two-time Super Bowl champion pass catcher.
The reported teams were the Detroit Lions, Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers. The Lions are led by former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia as their head coach. New England's former director of pro scouting, Bob Quinn, is Detroit's general manager. Mike Vrabel, the head coach of the Titans, won three Super Bowls in New England as a linebacker and former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien is the head coach in Houston. San Francisco was New England's trade partner in the Jimmy Garoppolo trade last season.
Gronkowski did not commit to returning to the Patriots until a few days before the draft, and also missed most of the team's voluntary offseason workouts. The Patriots and the tight end are reportedly working on a contract extension.