Rob Gronkowski back at New England Patriots practice

  • By Dan Hanzus
  • Around the League Writer
  • Updated: Dec. 14, 2012 at 01:17 p.m.

Rob Gronkowski has taken his first step toward a return for the New England Patriots.'s Albert Breer reported that Gronkowski participated in practice Friday for the first time since suffering a broken bone in his forearm Nov. 18 against the Indianapolis Colts.
Breer reported earlier this week that the plan all along has been to get Gronkowski some playing time before the postseason, but that he was a long shot for this week. Though he returned to practice in some fashion Friday, don't expect to see the star tight end on the field for Sunday's matchup against the San Francisco 49ers.

The Patriots have averaged 38 points per game in their three matchups without Gronkowski, and Tom Brady has another impact tight end he can lean on in Aaron Hernandez. Gronkowski will make the offense even more dangerous when he returns, but the Patriots are unlikely to rush him back in the lineup.