Patriots

Signs point to Gronk playing in Buffalo, where he dominates

Signs point to Gronk playing in Buffalo, where he dominates

FOXBORO -- Rob Gronkowski was back on the field and taking part in some blocking drills on Thursday afternoon on the fields behind Gillette Stadium. 

That's good news for the Patriots for a variety of reasons. It means his back has progressed to the point that he can get back in pads and absorb a little bit of contact. It also means that he's trending in the right direction to be able to play Monday night after missing last weekend's game against the Bears. And if he can play Monday night, history would indicate that he'll play well. 

When Gronkowski returns home to Western New York, he usually makes the most of it. Over the course of his career, in Buffalo, he's averaging 6.3 catches, 104.3 yards and a touchdown per game.

Last year Gronkowski finished off his day in Buffalo by taking a shot at corner Tre'Davious White, which got him suspended for the following week. But that moment overshadowed the nine-catch, 147-yard performance he put together to that point. 

He caught passes on six different Bills defenders, and Buffalo coach Sean McDermott remembers it well. On a conference call Thursday, he said that he expected Gronkowski to play, giving Tom Brady an arsenal that could rival any he's had in the past. 

"They’ve got a ton of weapons," McDermott said. "I feel like their weapons this year outnumber the weapons they’ve had in recent years. With Gronk probably playing in our game, they’ll be at full strength."

Gronkowski wasn't the only regular back on the practice field Thursday. Marcus Cannon and Deatrich Wise were also available. 

Wise played just 10 snaps in Chicago with knee and ankle issues, but he recorded a sack, giving him a team-high 3.5 for the season. 

Cannon, meanwhile, could factor into one of the most important matchups on the field Monday night: Bills pass-rusher Jerry Hughes versus whichever Patriots right tackle is on the field. 

Cannon must clear the NFL's concussion protocol before he is an option on game day, and if he can't go then the Patriots have a dependable fill-in in LaAdrian Waddle. Against the Bears last week, Waddle played all 64 snaps and had no issue handling injured pass-rusher Khalil Mack.

Hughes has been one of the best rushers in football for McDermott's club this season. He's also a rusher who primarily works against right tackles (95.3 percent of his pass-rush snaps come off the right side, according to Pro Football Focus). No one, according to PFF, has more total pressures than Hughes this season (36 combined sacks, hits and hurries). 

The Patriots were without Sony Michel, Eric Rowe and Brian Schwenke at practice Thursday. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

NFL Rumors: Execs now believe Robert Kraft will avoid suspension

NFL Rumors: Execs now believe Robert Kraft will avoid suspension

Back in February, some NFL executives speculated that Robert Kraft could face a harsher punishment than Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay's four-game suspension.

It appears that sentiment has changed. A lot.

The MMQB's Albert Breer spoke to multiple NFL executives who now believe the league won't discipline the New England Patriots owner at all for his role in a solicitation of prostitution scandal in Florida.

Here's Breer:

Asked if he thinks Kraft will be sanctioned late Wednesday, one NFC team exec answered, "No, nor should he be." An owner from another NFC team, when asked the same question, said, "I’d be pretty surprised if he was."

Breer added that "most owners and team executives sure seem to have cooled" on the idea that the NFL should punish Kraft and quoted a source at the NFL Players Association as saying, "I’m not sure it’s really relevant for us."

The key to Kraft's case against his two misdemeanor charges for soliciting prostitution is video evidence from inside the Orchids of Asia Day Spa. As of now, Kraft seems to be winning the battle to keep that video out of the public eye, successfully filing a motion to have video evidence suppressed on the grounds that it was obtained illegally.

Breer notes the NFL has never punished someone for a misdemeanor charge without a conviction, so if Kraft has his case dismissed, it seems likely he wouldn't be disciplined, either.

Prosecutors have appealed a Florida judge's motion to suppress the video, but that appeal won't be heard until Sept. 4 at the earliest, so it's looking more likely the Patriots owner will be in attendance when New England's latest Super Bowl banner gets raised at Gillette Stadium.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Patriots unveil veteran free agent jersey numbers for OTAs

Patriots unveil veteran free agent jersey numbers for OTAs

The New England Patriots unveiled Thursday the jersey numbers that veteran free agents will wear during OTAs this week at Gillette Stadium, and one of them stands out from the rest.

Jamie Collins, who was signed earlier this month for his second stint with the Patriots, will wear No. 8 during OTAs, which is an unusual number for a linebacker. However, it's not an unfamiliar number for Collins  -- he wore it in college at Southern Mississippi. Collins will not be able to wear No. 8 during the regular season due to NFL rules.

Here are the rest of the jersey numbers for New England's veteran free agents during OTAs. Some of these numbers could remain the same entering the regular season, although that could change based on any additional roster moves and other factors.

The Patriots have a few more weeks of offseason workouts, with training camp beginning in late July.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.