BOSTON (CBS) — When Rob Gronkowski first hit the level of superstardom, he’d often speak publicly without much of a filter, and in doing so he gained a lot of fans. Yet in the past couple of years, where just about everything he said and did became a national news story, the tight end entering his fourth season in the NFL has been much more reserved, speaking more in cliches than anything else.

But on Wednesday, in his first public comments this season in the Patriots locker room, Gronkowski opened up just a little bit about his state of mind as he returned to the practice field this week.

“It’s just fun being back out there,” said Gronkowski, who missed five regular-season games last season and had to sit out the AFC Championship Game. “Putting the pads on — just having ’em on man, it makes me happy again. I love this game, I definitely miss the game of football, just going out there and practicing with my teammates, I miss doing the grind with my teammates, and I miss being out there with the coaches and everything. It’s just awesome to be back out there with the team and focusing and getting things done.”

It’s obviously been a long road back to the football field for Gronkowski. After suffering a broken forearm in the middle of the season against the Colts, he returned in Week 17 but clearly did not show much faith in his injured arm. He re-injured it early in the Patriots’ first playoff game against the Houston Texans, and he had to watch as the Patriots came up short against the Ravens the following week.

Gronkowski underwent multiple surgeries to fix his arm, and he also underwent surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back.

While it was difficult for Gronkowski to miss out on so much playing time, he wasn’t willing to give a recap of his feelings when he spoke on Wednesday.

“It’s all in the past now,” he said. “I don’t really want to get to that where all of last year, how I felt and everything like that. That doesn’t matter anymore, it’s irrelevant now. The only thing relevant is moving forward and getting better every day and progressing.

As for that progress, he said he’s getting better every day and he’s suffered zero setbacks since ramping up his rehab.

“I’m preparing every day to the maximum of my ability and preparing every day to the best I can. When my number’s called, that’s when I’ll play. I couldn’t tell you when that will be.”

[cbs-audio url=”″ size=”340px” download=”true” name=”Gronk On Sudfeld, Possible Return Date” artist=”98.5 The Sports Hub”]
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