BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Gronk is back.
Patriots All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski has cleared the NFL's concussion protocol and was a full participant in Thursday's practice at Vikings' Winter Park.
The Eagles are going to have to deal with the best tight end in football in Super Bowl LII on Sunday.
"I was just going through the protocol, whatever the standards were, whatever they had me do throughout the weeks," Gronkowski said Thursday afternoon. "I mean, I would say they were more on the cautious side of getting me out there right away with the bye week and everything in between, which definitely helped out big time, but just did every step by step every day, everything went smooth, and officially got the word today that I was cleared. So it was super nice to hear from the doctors going through the whole process and I'm ready to roll."
It's likely the Eagles will call on safety Malcolm Jenkins to cover Gronkowski on Sunday night. Jenkins has had success against top tight ends in the league before, but Gronk is a different animal. In every game Jenkins has ever faced the Patriots, either Gronk was hurt or it came before the tight end entered the league in 2010.
Gronkowski (6-6, 267) played in just 14 games this regular season, but still went over 1,000 yards receiving for the fourth time in his eight-year career.
"Obviously looking forward to the matchup," Jenkins said last week. "He's a top tight end in this league for a reason. He does a great job of creating contact and using his body to separate the defender from the ball and catches contested throws. He's faster than most people think and then (Tom) Brady puts it in a spot only he can get it."
The Eagles practiced on Thursday afternoon, following their morning media session. Tim Jernigan (illness) missed practice for the second straight day. The Eagles have been dealing with a cold that's been passed around; Kenjon Barner and Doug Pederson were sick last week in Philly. Ronald Darby was added to the injury report with an illness but was a full participant.
Also full participants were Jay Ajayi (ankle), Fletcher Cox (calf) and Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring).
Back to Patriots practice, Brady practiced with black tape on his right throwing hand for the second straight day as the Patriots went in shells and helmets, a step down from their fully-padded practice on Wednesday.
DBs Malcolm Butler (illness) and Brandon King (knee) were also full participants on Thursday, according to a pool report. Lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. also cleared the NFL's concussion protocol.
The Patriots had a special guest Thursday: former nose tackle Vince Wilfork spoke to the team after practice.
"He's a great leader for us, team captain 11 years," Belichick said. "A lot of friends here on the team, some new faces. But a guy that was very well-respected and had tremendous leadership on the team. It was good to see him."