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Gronkowski practices in full pads

The SportsXchange

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski participated in his first practice wearing full pads Sunday since having forearm and back injuries during the offseason.

Gronkowski is not expected to be healthy enough to play in the Patriots' regular-season opener Sept. 8 at the Buffalo Bills or the following game Sept. 12 at home against the New York Jets.

However, his presence in practice wearing pads is a sign he is close to returning.

Gronkowski participated in running, agility and blocking drills, according to ESPNBoston.com. Reporters only saw 15 minutes of the practice.

The Patriots decided to keep Gronkowski on their 53-man active roster Saturday rather than cutting him or placing him on the physically unable to perform list. That would have kept him out through the first six weeks of the season.

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