BOSTON (CBS) — Rob Gronkowski hadn’t played in the preseason since 2012.

Mix in offseason back surgery, and it was a bit or a surprise when No. 87 took the field on Saturday night in New England’s 27-23 preseason loss to the Texans in Houston.

Gronk was on the field with many of the Patriots’ offensive starters for 15 of their first 17 snaps of the game on Saturday. Though he didn’t see any passes go his way, Gronkowski was a key part of the New England run game over the first two series of the loss.

“It felt good to be out there and get my feet wet,” he told reporters after the game.  “It felt great to get the speed of the game. It just felt good to be back out there with the boys, for sure.”

“It was great. For all of us to get out there and play is something you can’t replicate in just practice,” quarterback Tom Brady said of having Gronkowski on the field. “For him to get out there, to be out there all training camp, it builds confidence and I’m proud of him.”

Gronkowski only played in eight games last season, which ended for him in late November due to a back injury that required offseason surgery (he also missed the first two games of the season with a hamstring injury).

But the tight end, who has 69 career touchdowns in his seven NFL season, has been a full go in training camp and his appearance on Saturday night is a great sign that he’ll be at full strength when the regular season rolls around on September 7.

 

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