Ankle injury keeps Patriots TE Gronkowski from practicing

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski missed the team's first practice of Super Bowl week with an injured left ankle.

The Patriots have given no details on the extent of Gronkowski's injury and he was not available during the period when reporters had locker room access. But with more than a week before the Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5, there's no need to rush him back.

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Gronkowski, who set an NFL record for tight ends with 17 touchdown catches this season, limped off the field in the third quarter of Sunday's 23-20 win over Baltimore in the AFC Championship Game but returned about five minutes later. As captured on NFL Network's "Sound FX," Gronkowski felt like he was fine to return to action.

On Monday, however, he was seen wearing a removable boot on his left foot.

Aaron Hernandez, the versatile half of the Patriots' unique tight-end combination, said Thursday that Gronkowski seems cheerful -- as usual.

"I'm sure he'll be fine," Hernandez said. "He's full of excitement, never in a bad mood, always happy. So I'm pretty sure he's still happy."

Coach Bill Belichick, typically, was less revealing. Asked how Gronkowski was progressing, he said, "good, good."

And he was noncommittal on how the Patriots would be affected if Gronkowski plays in the Super Bowl without practicing.

"We'll just have to see, you know," Belichick said. "He's not going to practice today, so take it day by day. I'm not going to try to forecast where things will be 10 days from now. We'll just take it day by day."

Gronkowski started all 16 regular-season games and two playoff games. Belichick said he believed Gronkowski took part in just about every practice this season.

The Patriots listed 12 players as taking part in a limited portion of practice for the second straight day.

Also on Thursday, the Patriots signed to the practice squad tight end Carson Butler, who spent most of the 2010 season on their practice squad and was released Sept. 2. The only other tight end on the roster is Aaron Hernandez. Another tight end, Garrett Mills, is on the practice squad.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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