Notebook: Gronkowski on practice field, still in concussion protocol

By The Sports Xchange
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski attempts to dodge a tackle buy Buffalo Bills cornerback Leonard Johnson during their game Dec. 24. Photo by Matthew Healey/UPI
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski attempts to dodge a tackle buy Buffalo Bills cornerback Leonard Johnson during their game Dec. 24. Photo by Matthew Healey/UPI | License Photo

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was present at the start of Saturday's practice session.

Gronkowski took part in the portion of practice that was open to the media, per reports.


The 28-year-old has been absent from practice this week as he deals with a concussion sustained on a helmet-to-helmet hit from safety Barry Church in the second quarter of the Patriots' 24-20 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Sunday's AFC Championship Game. Church was fined $24,309 by the NFL for the hit.

Gronkowski has not been cleared from the NFL's concussion protocol, per the team.

--The NFL fined Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham and Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr $9,115 apiece for their respective infractions during Sunday's NFC Championship Game.


Bradham was fined for a facemask penalty with 6:34 remaining in the fourth quarter on a 10-yard pass completion to Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon.

The fine was the first this season for Bradham, who recorded four tackles in the Eagles' 38-7 rout of the Vikings. Barr was fined for unnecessary roughness following an extra point by Philadelphia in the fourth quarter.

--The mayors of Philadelphia and Brockton (Mass.) have put the look of their respective cities' Rocky statues on the line for Super Bowl LII.

If the Philadelphia Eagles win their first Super Bowl in franchise history on Feb. 4 in Minneapolis, the famed Rocky Marciano statue in Brockton will be adorned with the team's apparel.

Now, should the Patriots capture their third Super Bowl title in four years, the Rocky Balboa statue will wear Patriots clothing.

Yards, which is a taproom in Philadelphia, also is betting Boston's Harpoon Brewery on the outcome of the game. Per Philadelphia Magazine, "the brewery from the losing team's city will have to pour the winning team's beer in their taproom for an entire day -- with staff wearing the winning team's gear."


--Cameron Jordan will not play in Super Bowl LII with the New Orleans Saints, but the defensive end made sure one of the team's biggest fans will be in attendance.

Earlier this week, Jordan presented Lawrence Brooks, a 108-year-old World War II veteran, with a pair tickets for the big game. Brooks, who lives in New Orleans, served in the 91st Engineer Battalion during World War II, WGNO reported.

"I just wanted to say thank you for everything you did in military service back in your younger days," Jordan said.

Brooks was quick to show his appreciation as well.

"I appreciate everything you do, too," Brooks said. "And I want you to keep it up, keep it up, you hear?"

--New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning appears to be looking toward the future and leaving an uncomfortable 2017 season in his rear-view mirror.

Manning told the New York Daily News that he was "excited" to be working with new coach Pat Shurmur, who was formally introduced as the Giants head coach.

The 37-year-old Manning endured a difficult season in which he saw his 210-game consecutive start streak halted as the Giants limped to a 3-13 campaign.


The Giants scored only 15.4 points per game, second only to the winless Cleveland Browns (14.6).

--Mike Vrabel reportedly will have two familiar faces join him with the Tennessee Titans.

Houston Texans assistants Pat O'Hara and Shane Bowen are headed to Tennessee to join the former defensive coordinator-turned-head coach, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The Titans are expected to hire O'Hara as quarterbacks coach while Bowen will coach the outside linebackers.

O'Hara has served as an offensive assistant with the Texans, assisting with the quarterbacks. Bowen served as a defensive assistant with the Texans the past two seasons.

--The Carolina Panthers will interview interim general manager Marty Hurney and Houston Texans assistant GM Jimmy Raye III this coming week for the full-time general manager position, multiple outlets reported.

Hurney was hired on an interim basis the week prior to training camp to replace Dave Gettleman, who was fired by team owner Jerry Richardson. Gettleman, who is now the general manager of the New York Giants, was hired to replace Hurney after the latter was fired following a 1-5 start to the 2012 season.


Hurney spent 2002-12 as the Panthers' general manager and has a close relationship with coach Ron Rivera.

Raye is also friendly with Rivera from their time with the then-San Diego Chargers. The 49-year-old joined the Texans as assistant general manager in 2017 after he was fired by the Indianapolis Colts a year earlier.

-- Tight end Tony Gonzalez was named as the Kansas City Chiefs' 2018 inductee to the team's Hall of Fame.

Gonzalez, who ranks sixth all-time in the NFL in career receiving yards (15,127) and No. 2 all-time in career receptions (1,325), will become the 44th player and 48th individual to earn the honor.

The 41-year-old will be celebrated at a banquet in downtown Kansas City on Feb. 24 while his official enshrinement ceremony will take place during the team's Alumni Weekend at Arrowhead Stadium this fall.

"Tony Gonzalez is the greatest tight end in the history of the National Football League and one of the greatest Chiefs of all time," Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said in a statement. "In his 12 seasons in Kansas City, he revolutionized his position, and his record-breaking performances and commitment to the Kansas City community made him one of the most beloved players in the Chiefs Kingdom."


--A jury in Gretna (La.) found Ronald Gasser guilty of manslaughter in the shooting death of former NFL running back Joe McKnight, multiple outlets reported.

Gasser, 56, faces up to 40 years in prison on the heels of a road-rage confrontation Dec. 1, 2016, in Terrytown, which is just outside New Orleans. He initially was charged with second-degree murder, which carries a life sentence.

State District Judge Ellen Kovach set a March 15 sentencing date.

Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick said in a news release that justice was served, while his assistants said that the McKnight family was pleased with the decision.

Defense attorneys argued Gasser fired in self-defense at McKnight, who was standing at his open passenger-side window following a five-mile rolling confrontation that began with aggressive driving on a New Orleans bridge.

-- Dallas Cowboys rookie wide receiver Ryan Switzer underwent arthroscopic ankle surgery.

Switzer had bone spurs removed from his left ankle, according to the Cowboys' official website. He is expected to be ready for the start of the team's offseason program.

A fourth-round draft pick out of West Virginia, Switzer was utilized primarily on special teams. He earned a spot on the Pro Football Writers Association All-Rookie team as a kick returner.


Switzer had only six receptions for 41 yards for the year, capped by a four-catch performance at Philadelphia in the regular-season finale. Switzer averaged 8.8 yards on 29 point returns and 25.0 yards on 24 kick returns while appearing in all 16 games for Dallas.

-- The rate of injuries sustained by NFL players during Thursday night games exceeded the injury rate in other contests, the league revealed in its preliminary data for the 2017 preseason and regular season.

This season, there were 6.9 injuries per game Thursday nights, according to the NFL's data, compared to 6.3 per game in Saturday, Sunday and Monday contests. For an injury to qualify, it had to result in the player being removed from the game or being sidelined from football activities, the league said.

The injury rate during Thursday night games has long been a point of contention for some NFL players who have complained that the contests are unsafe due to competing on short rest.

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