Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is recovering from multiple forearm surgeries and a back surgery. (Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski practiced in full pads for the first time Sunday since undergoing surgeries on his left forearm and back.
While his return is a sign of progress, it is not a "realistic expectation" for Gronkowski to be ready to play in the Patriots regular-season opener next Sunday, according to ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss.
The 24-year-old, who broke his left forearm in Week 11 last season and re-injured the arm during the first quarter of the Patriots' first playoff game, was limited in his participation at practice.
In the 15 minutes that reporters were present, Gronkowski went through running drills as players ran the width of the field multiple times, then was part of an agility drill in which players step over bags while keeping their eyes up to catch a football thrown by a coach. He also took part in a lower-key blocking drill in which he worked on technique by getting out of his stance and hitting a blocking pad held by a coach.
Upon arriving in the locker room after practice, Gronkowski told reporters that he would speak to them later in the week.
A source said Gronkowski didn't go through the entire practice with the team, as rehabilitating players sometimes take part in the first parts of the workout (running, agility drills) before going to a different field to continue rehabilitation-type work.
Gronkowski has earned a Pro Bowl nod in each of the past two seasons, posting a combined 2,117 yards and 28 touchdowns. His 17 receiving touchdowns in 2011 were the most ever by a tight end.
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