As the New England Patriots prepare for their second preseason game, Gronkowski, their star tight end, awaits a return to contact. Meanwhile, he works on the side, and part of that work includes catching passes from Brady, with star cornerback Revis ''covering'' him without contact.
Pretty fair workout partners for Gronkowski until he is ready for hitting.
''It's good just to have a defender out there, instead of just running all of my routes on air right now,'' Gronkowski said after Sunday's practice. ''To break off a guy, right in front of you, just like it's a game, you've got to break off a guy, break off a defender. Having Darrelle out there giving me a little contact, a little bit, pushing me on my routes, just making me a better player out there, as of right now.''
Asked if Revis is merely offering some resistance, and not working on his own things with his new team, Gronkowski said, ''It's basically more of a drill for me, but he's definitely learning, too, I would say.
''He's just breaking a little bit, not going full, full out. He's just helping me out and getting me back adjusted to having a defender out there in front of me.''
The drills also further advance the already special connection between Brady and his tight end.
Gronkowski, who underwent surgery on his right knee back in December, didn't accompany the team last week as the Patriots joined the Washington Redskins for workouts prior to the teams meeting in the first preseason game. He stayed behind getting his work in and reports continued improvement.
''Pretty good, improving every single week so far,'' he said when asked about his progression -which is aimed at the apparent goal of him returning for the season opener. ''No setbacks or anything like that. Just going out there and feeling better every single time I get on the field.''
He said the team being away also allowed him to get some rest for the knee. ''I'm feeling better since the time off so I'm doing well,'' he said. ''When you (have) something you can't just keep going on it - you've got to let your body heal, you've got to let your body rest and recover.
''It was a good week and now I'm back to this week going hard and getting back at it.''
The next step, of course, is contact, something a 100-percent Gronkowski loves.
''Closer every single day,'' he said. ''Closer every single day, to get in there with the team, getting in there and getting some contact. Talking to the trainers, we don't have a set date or anything. Just taking it day by day and we'll see how it goes. Just improving every day to get back out there and start hitting.''
Notes: The Patriots will host two dual practices with the Philadelphia Eagles this week before the team meet in a preseason game at Gillette Stadium on Friday night. . Backup quarterback Ryan Mallett, who played a shaky first half in the 23-6 loss to Washington, was among the missing on Sunday, but coach Bill Belichick wouldn't say if it was for physical reasons. . The Patriots released tight ends Asa Watson and Justin Jones, and running back Stephen Houston, and signed veteran tight ends Ben Harstock and Steve Maneri and undrafted rookie tight end Terrence Miller. This is Maneri's second time with the team and he has also played offensive tackle in the NFL.