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Notebook: Gronkowski limited in Patriots practice

By The Sports Xchange
Notebook: Gronkowski limited in Patriots practice
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski attempts to break free of an attempted tackle by Buffalo Bills cornerback Leonard Johnson during their game on Dec. 24. Photo by Matthew Healey/UPI | License Photo

The New England Patriots kicked off their Super Bowl week of practices with their first and only fully-padded session on Wednesday afternoon at the Minnesota Vikings' Winter Park indoor facility.

The 12:30 p.m. CT practice lasted approximately two hours without a minute wasted.

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Quarterback Tom Brady, wearing only black tape on his injured right (throwing) hand, practiced in full and led the offense through passing and red-zone drills to start, then situational 11-on-11 football, according to the pool report.

By his side for much of the workout was tight end Rob Gronkowski, who practiced in pads and was listed as limited as he works his way through the concussion protocol.

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"We red-jerseyed him today so he's working his way back," Belichick said.

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Also limited were defensive linemen Deatrich Wise Jr. (concussion) and Malcom Brown (foot).

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--Former Buffalo Bills safety Aaron Williams announced his retirement from the NFL in a letter published by The Players' Tribune.

Williams' last game saw him sustain head and neck injuries on an illegal blind-side block by Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who was fined by the NFL for the hit. Landry later apologized for the block in that game, a 28-25 win by the Dolphins on Oct. 23, 2016.

The 27-year-old Williams sustained a neck injury in a game against the New England Patriots in September 2015 that saw him leave the field in an ambulance and eventually end his season. He also sustained a concussion in practice during the 2016 training camp.

RELATED Broncos' Miller on Cousins: '(He) could take us over the edge'

--Miami Dolphins defensive end Andre Branch underwent knee surgery after the injury forced him to sit out two of his team's games this season.

Branch posted a picture of himself preparing for surgery with the words: "Time to get fixed up. Surgery ready."

The 28-year-old recorded four sacks and 23 tackles this season for the Dolphins after signing a three-year, $27 million deal in the offseason.

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--Fox will broadcast Thursday Night Football for the next five seasons, the NFL announced.

The network captured the package by submitting a winning bid of $550 million per year, per Sports Business Daily. Fox will broadcast 11 games from Weeks 4 to 15, with those contests being simulcast on the NFL Network.

CBS and NBC shared the package in the previous deal, paying the league $45 million per game over the last two seasons.

--The Kansas City Chiefs will play the Los Angeles Rams in Mexico City during the 2018 season, commissioner Roger Goodell announced.

That contest is the fourth international game confirmed for the 2018 season, with three slated to be played in London.

The date and time of the game in Mexico City will be announced during the offseason.

--Washington Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger sounded off over social media after learning that the team included cornerback Kendall Fuller as part of the agreed-upon trade for quarterback Alex Smith.

After initially wondering whether Tuesday's deal -- which included the Redskins receiving a third-round pick -- was a joke, Swearinger's comments over Twitter became more pointed.

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"Never Saw Any (expletive) Like This In My Life!!" Swearinger tweeted. "Idc who i rub wrong because you never sat in a meeting nor put in work with my dawg!! People say they wanna win right but you throw away your best defender!?!? Somebody you can set a standard with?!?! #Defense will win championships!!"

Swearinger also wrote that the Redskins took a "Major Step down from the best slot corner in The Game!!" before deleting both tweets.

--Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller backed Kirk Cousins as potentially a significant addition to the Broncos should the quarterback hit the open market on the heels of the Washington Redskins agreeing to trade for Alex Smith on Tuesday.

In fact, Miller said on the Dan Patrick Show on Wednesday that Cousins is aware of just how much he values him. The Super Bowl 50 MVP said, "A lot of teams would kill to have a quarterback like that" after Cousins led the Redskins to a 27-11 win over the Broncos on Dec. 24.

"He's the hot quarterback on the market right now," Miller said. "Yeah, we need Kirk. We need Kirk. I'd like to have Kirk. We have great quarterbacks now. Kirk could take us over the edge."

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--Terrell Owens insisted he will not mind if he doesn't get selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2018.

"... I'm not going to allow the (Pro Football) Hall of Fame define who I am because, again, my stats, my videos are never going to go anywhere -- you can just Google it.

"... As far as my body of work, I constantly say it, it speaks for itself. I mean I played with the best receiver, the greatest receiver of all-time and that's Jerry Rice. And I think when you see what I've done compared to what he's done, you know, like I said, then there's no comparison."

--Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson is turning to a familiar face to address his team ahead of Super Bowl LII.

Pederson told reporters that former teammate and Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre will talk to his players on Saturday morning, one day before the Eagles will face the New England Patriots in Minneapolis.

"We're great friends," Pederson said. "We were teammates for eight years in Green Bay, and I figured since he was going to be in town, I just asked him."

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--Hall of Fame quarterback and NFL TV analyst Terry Bradshaw took issue with the Pittsburgh Steelers electing against renewing the contract of offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

"Haley was a great play-caller," the 69-year-old Bradshaw told the Sporting News. "They had great success together. For the life of me, I have not figured out why they fired Todd Haley. Didn't they put up 42 points against the Jaguars?"

For the record, Haley wasn't fired, but Bradshaw didn't stop there.

"It would seem to me more like the head coach has to recognize the people he's hiring to run that defense aren't doing the job," Bradshaw said. "Firing Haley made no sense. What did he do wrong? That's why he was hired right away by Cleveland."

--The Carolina Panthers hired former Michigan head coach Brady Hoke as their defensive line coach, the team announced.

The Panthers also announced Chase Blackburn as their special teams coordinator, Steve Russ as linebackers coach, Scott Turner as quarterbacks coach, Heath Farwell assistant special teams coach, and Travelle Wharton as assistant offensive line coach.

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--Ken Norton Jr. will see a familiar face on the coaching staff of the Seattle Seahawks.

Jethro Franklin will be hired as the assistant defensive line coach for the Seahawks, the Sporting News reported.

Franklin served as the defensive line coach in Oakland with Norton, who was the Raiders' defensive coordinator before being fired on Nov. 21 after the team's 33-8 loss to the New England Patriots.

--One day after the Tennessee Titans announced the hiring of defensive coordinator Dean Pees and offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, the team announced seven additions to Mike Vrabel's coaching staff.

Two assistant coaches who were on the Titans' staff this past season were retained: Craig Aukerman, who was the assistant special teams coach under previous Titans coach Mike Mularkey, will now be the special teams coach, and Arthur Smith will remain the Titans' tight ends coach.

New members of the Titans' staff include wide receivers coach Rob Moore, quarterbacks coach Pat O'Hara, secondary coach Kerry Coombs, outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen and inside linebackers coach Tyrone McKenzie.

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--The Jacksonville Jaguars remain committed to quarterback Blake Bortles, despite the apparent availability of Kirk Cousins, according to NFL.com.

Bortles led the Jaguars to the AFC Championship Game, where they lost to the New England Patriots, even though he has not been highly regarded and was criticized roundly by Jacksonville fans.

The 25-year-old Bortles has the support of his teammates after his performance this season, particularly down the stretch and figures to receive a multi-year contract from the Jaguars, but for only moderate money.

Cousins, 29, figures to get a five-year deal worth approximately $128 million, with about $75 million guaranteed.

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