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Rob Gronkowski ready to return to Patriots practice?

The Gronk Spike could return for "Sunday Night Football" this week.

Shalise Manza-Young of the Boston Globe reports that New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is expected to try to practice this week as the team prepares to face the San Francisco 49ers.

Gronkowski broke his forearm on Nov. 19. Since then, he has been seen in odd Gronk-like activities like attending local college classes in a sling. The Patriots have won all three games without Gronkowski, averaging 38 points per game.

Since Gronkowski's injury, the Patriots also have lost wide receiver Julian Edelman and replacement pickup Donte' Stallworth for the season. The Patriots will re-sign Deion Branch, according to NFL.com's Albert Breer.



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Breer said Tuesday night on NFL Network's "NFL Total Access" that Gronk had told people close to him he wanted to come back during this two-game stretch of prime-time games, but it was "unlikely" to happen. With games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins to end the season, the Patriots could be careful with when they bring him back, according to Breer.

The Patriots have scored 97 more points than any other NFL team despite not having Gronkowski and fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez healthy at the same time for virtually the whole season.

UPDATE: Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday that Gronkowski is day to day.

"Hopefully today is better than yesterday," Belichick said. "Hopefully tomorrow is better than today."

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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