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Rob Gronkowski Cleared to Play After Knee Surgery

FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 03:  Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots reacts after a teammate missed a touchdown pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first quarter at Gillette Stadium on November 3, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistJuly 23, 2014

The past couple of seasons have been laden with injuries for New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, but there is already reason to expect a much healthier 2014.    

According to NFL.com's Albert Breer, the Pats have opted against placing Gronk on the physically unable to perform list at the start of training camp:

The Patriots' official Twitter account confirmed the news and deemed Gronkowski cleared to compete:

ESPN.com's Mike Reiss explains that the news puts Gronkowski "in position to be ready for the regular-season opener Sept. 7 at Miami."

Injury expert Jene Bramel highlights what's next:

Gronkowski had surgery to repair a torn ACL in January, so it is safe to say that he is currently well ahead of schedule in his recovery. This is huge for Gronkowski and the Patriots, considering he missed the start of the season last year after undergoing multiple surgeries on his forearm and back.

Some might have considered it a long shot initially, but Gronkowski's hope all along has been to be healthy for the start of the season. Per Reiss, Gronk intends to play his first full season since 2011.

"I'm planning on playing the whole season this year," Gronkowski said. "I'm always antsy to get back on the field, no matter when it is. I just want to play football. I love playing the game."

The fact that Gronkowski has been cleared doesn't necessarily guarantee that he will be on the field for the Patriots when they face the Miami Dolphins in Week 1, but Breer believes it is a significant step in the right direction:

Although Gronkowski has struggled to avoid injuries in recent seasons, there is no question that he makes a major impact when he plays. Gronk caught 90 passes for over 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns the last time he completed a full 16-game slate.

Patriots guard Logan Mankins is excited to have Gronkowski back, according to Shalise Manza Young of The Boston Globe, and it's easy to see why:

Defensive end Rob Ninkovich also chimed in, per Reiss:

"I'm happy to see his progress and see him coming into this season and staying healthy; obviously, that's what everyone is talking about. I don't want to speak on his behalf, but he's one of the hardest working guys I've ever seen as well."

The Pats may be the class of the AFC East with or without Gronkowski, but they probably aren't legitimate Super Bowl contenders unless he is able to stay on the field. He adds a dimension that few other teams have and is the ultimate security blanket for quarterback Tom Brady.

New England has to take a somewhat cautious approach to ensure that he doesn't rush back into heavy activity too quickly, but the Patriots probably don't want a repeat of last year's will-he-or-won't-he scenario, either.

Despite that, Gronk being cleared for football activities is great news for New England, and it certainly gives Patriots fans hope that the superstar tight end will be ready come Sept. 7.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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