FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Star tight end Rob Gronkowski stood in front of his Gillette Stadium locker Monday and announced he will be playing in the New England Patriots’ opener at Miami this Sunday.
Meanwhile, the news hardly caught the Dolphins by surprise.
“I’m super excited,” said Gronkowski, who didn’t play in any of the four preseason games as he completed his recovery from December right knee surgery. “I won’t have to see my teammates grind all week – (I’ll) go back out there with them, get in the huddle, break the huddle with them.
“It’s going to be an honor to be back out there with my teammates. Super pumped, super excited and just preparing for the game.”
The pronouncement came as a bit of a surprise in a locker room not known for players breaking news.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m just getting it out of the way there,” Gronkowski said. “Every single day this week (he would have been asked about returning) – get it out of the way now.”
The Patriots are 6-0 all time when Gronkowski plays against the Dolphins, but Miami has kept him in some check of late. Gronkowski’s last two games against Miami resulted in a total of only four catches.
Dolphins Coach Joe Philbin said his team was “fully prepared” for a Gronkowski sighting.
“He’s an excellent player,” Philbin said Monday. “He’s been a very, very productive player throughout his career. We’ll have a good plan in place, but he’s certainly an important part of their offense, and a productive part of it. We’ll be ready for him, for sure.”
Gronkowski, who tore his right ACL and MCL last Dec. 8, is a two-time Pro Bowler and was an All-Pro in 2011. He has 226 catches with 42 touchdowns in 50 regular-season games. Last season, coming off multiple surgeries and an arm infection, he appeared in seven games, catching 39 passes, four for touchdowns, before going down on a hit by safety T.J. Ward, then of the Cleveland Browns.
Asked if he feels ready, Gronkowski said, “Definitely. I feel mentally and physically ready, for sure, no doubt about it.
“Now I just have to focus on the Miami Dolphins, just keep focusing on getting better and getting stronger.”
NOTES: WR Josh Boyce, cut Saturday, was one of 10 players signed to the taxi squad, a list that includes DL Charley Hughlett, who is being signed for the second time as a long snapper after the release of Danny Aiken. DE-LB Rob Ninkovich is currently the only long snapper on the roster. … Also re-signed were DL Jake Bequette, LBs Ja’Gared Davis and Deontae Skinner, S Kanorris Davis, RB Jonas Gray, OL Chris Martin and DB Daxton Swanson. The club also added quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, last with San Francisco. … Late Monday, the Patriots announced that they claimed safety Don Jones off waivers from Miami and released offensive lineman Chris Barker.