The star tight end took part in his first full-pads practice since undergoing back surgery in June. He also had three operations this year on the left forearm he broke last season.
Gronkowski participated with his teammates in drills during the 15 minutes in which reporters were allowed to observe Sunday. The Patriots kept him on their 53-man roster instead of putting him on the physically unable to perform list. That would have required him to miss the first six games of the regular season.
Coach Bill Belichick hasn’t said when he expects Gronkowski to be ready to play in a game.
• A person familiar with the situation says the Patriots released running back-kick returner Leon Washington.
Washington, who signed with the team in the off-season, is tied with Josh Cribbs for the NFL record with eight career kickoffs returned for touchdowns.
FALCONS: Signed eight players to their practice squad, including receivers James Rodgers and Darius Johnson.
The list of players signed Sunday does not include linebacker Brian Banks, who was cut Saturday. Banks was trying to launch his career after spending five years in prison on a rape conviction that was overturned last year.
The Falcons also signed fullback Patrick DiMarco, quarterback Seth Doege, cornerback Jordan Mabin, offensive guard Phillipkeith Manley, defensive tackle Adam Replogle and tight end Mickey Shuler to the practice squad.
BILLS: Quarterback EJ Manuel returned to practice Sunday after missing two weeks because of a left knee injury.
Manuel participated in warm-ups and individual drills during the practice. He moved well and did not appear to show any effects from the injury. He was wearing a small brace on his left knee underneath his black spandex.
Manuel had been out since being hurt Aug. 16 in Buffalo’s second preseason game. He had what the team referred to as a “minor procedure” on the knee Aug. 18.
The Bills remain hopeful that the first-round pick will return in time to start the team’s season opener against New England.