Rob Gronkowski was absent and Tom Brady only a limited participant as the New England Patriots returned to the practice field on Thursday for the first time since defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars in last weekend's AFC Championship game.
Gronkowski did not participate for the second straight day as he continues to deal with symptoms from a concussion he suffered after taking a nasty shot to the head on Sunday. Defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. and defensive tackle Malcom Brown also did not participate in Thursday afternoon's practice.
Wise is also dealing with a concussion, although when he may have suffered it is less clear. The rookie was seen in the locker room after the game on Sunday after playing in 18 of a possible 74 snaps on defense.
Brown is listed with a foot injury and like Wise, it is unclear when he may have suffered it. Brown played in 58 of a possible 74 defensive snaps on Sunday.
Brady, who had been on the injury list last week with a hand injury, was listed as a limited participant in Thursday's practice, along with running back Mike Gillislee (knee), safety Devin McCourty (shoulder) and offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle (knee).
Brady has said he expects his hand to be fine by the Super Bowl.
Gronkowski has only been fully healthy for one Super Bowl thus far in his career, the Patriots’ 28-24 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. He played in Super Bowl XLVI against the New York Giants despite suffering a high-ankle sprain against the Baltimore Ravens in that year’s AFC Championship Game and it showed, as he caught only two passes for 26 yards.
He did not play again after Week 11 last season due to a lower back injury and missed New England’s comeback from a 28-3 deficit against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.
Earlier in the week, Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald reported that despite being in the NFL’s concussion protocol, there is optimism Gronkowski will be ready to go for Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4.
Even if they’ve only played in half as many Super Bowls as Tom Brady, Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater are no strangers to the big stage.
Both McCourty and Slater will be suiting up for their fourth Super Bowl appearances with the Patriots (XLVI, XLIX, LI) on Feb. 4 and have seen the media attention ramp up as the day draws closer.
Each player is a veteran of not only dealing with larger media contingents in New England prior to departing for the Super Bowl, but the NFL’s annual Media Day in which just about everything is fair game.
In the locker room, McCourty at first joked that he hates the media aspect – “I hate that I’m doing this right now,” he said – before opening up on how he handled his first trip to the Super Bowl after the 2011 season, as well as advice he’s offered younger players who may be going for the first time.
“I could do without the weird dress-ups [at Media Day], but I think it’s pretty cool because we get some questions that are definitely different topics, like our faith, and things like that,” McCourty said. “We get to talk about different things, I always think that’s cool, but I could do without like ‘do I like a cat or a dog.’ I could do without all of that.”
“Some of it, they should enjoy. I remember my first time, some of the silly questions, I’m answering like it’s super serious. I think it’s a part of it; it’s a part of enjoying that first-time experience.”
Slater recalled getting a soccer ball kicked in his direction at last year’s Media Day event in Houston, saying that it’s an entertaining day with a lot going on but that it’s still fun, especially for the fans who get to know their team’s players a little bit better.
“Part of my job description is to talk to the media,” Slater said. “I enjoy it.”
Asked if he felt as though he had a longer leash and Media Day than a typical media session in Foxboro, Slater said that it’s always important to represent yourself, the family and the team.
“Regardless of who’s interviewing you,” Slater said.
Tom vs. Time
The first episode of Tom Brady’s web series “Tom vs. Time” debuted on Facebook Watch was released today at noon. The series will consist of five chapters in all, with the finale set to air on Super Bowl Sunday.
Several of Brady’s teammates reacted to the news of its release, noting that they hadn’t had time to watch it yet since they’d been at practice, but would likely get around to it.
“He does?” Phillip Dorsett said upon learning of the series. “I’ll probably watch it.”
“I was told that that aired today, so I guess I’ll have to take a look at it,” Slater said.
“I haven’t really heard anything about it, but I’m sure it’s probably pretty good if he put it together,” David Andrews said.