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Patriots' Rob Gronkowski says he's ready to play against Dolphins

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski tells reporters he will play Sunday agianst Miami Dolphins
Broncos receiver Wes Welker returns to practice for first time since sustaining a concussion Aug. 23
Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton wears flak jacket at practice to protect fractured ribs

Star tight end Rob Gronkowski stood in front of his Gillette Stadium locker in Foxborough, Mass., on Monday and announced he will be playing in the New England Patriots' opener at Miami on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the news hardly caught the Dolphins by surprise.

"I'm super excited," said Gronkowski, who didn't play in any of the four preseason games as he completed his recovery from December right knee surgery. "I won't have to see my teammates grind all week – [I'll] go back out there with them, get in the huddle, break the huddle with them.

"It's going to be an honor to be back out there with my teammates. Super pumped, super excited and just preparing for the game."

The pronouncement came as a bit of a surprise in a locker room not known for players "breaking news."

"Yeah, yeah, I'm just getting it out of the way there," Gronkowski said. "Every single day this week [he would have been asked about returning] — get it out of the way now."

"It just feels good in my mind to know that I'll be out there with my boys, working hard, grinding with them, being out there."

The Patriots are 6-0 when Gronkowski plays against the Dolphins, but Miami has kept him in check of late. In his last two games against Miami he had only only four catches.

Dolphins Coach Joe Philbin said his team was "fully prepared" for a Gronkowski sighting.

"He's an excellent player," Philbin said Monday. "He's been a very, very productive player throughout his career. We'll have a good plan in place, but he's certainly an important part of their offense, and a productive part of it. We'll be ready for him, for sure."

Gronkowski, who tore his right ACL anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament l Dec. 8, is a two-time Pro Bowler and was an All-Pro in 2011. He has 226 catches with 42 touchdowns in 50 regular-season games. Last season, coming off multiple surgeries and an arm infection, he appeared in seven games, catching 39 passes, four for touchdowns, before going down on a hit by safety T.J. Ward, then of the Cleveland Browns.

Welker returns to practice

The Denver Broncos' Wes Welker returned to practice Monday for the first time since sustaining a concussion in an Aug. 23 preseason game against the Houston Texans. The slot receiver ran short routes during the 20-minute viewing period open to the media.

Welker's concussion was his third in 10 months. He got hurt on a hard hit from D.J. Swearinger that prompted Peyton Manning to swear at the swaggering safety. That earned the five-time most valuable player the first taunting penalty of his career along with an $8,268 fine.

Welker caught 73 passes for 778 yards and a career-high 10 touchdowns last season despite missing the last 31/2 games. He also had 18 grabs for 160 yards and a TD in the playoffs.

Titans sign Succop

Veteran kicker Ryan Succop has agreed to a one-year deal with the Tennessee Titans, who chose to go with experience rather than an undrafted rookie. Agent Joel Turner said Monday that Succop is happy with a "very good opportunity" with the Titans.

The Titans, who earlier Monday announced they had agreed to terms with linebacker Quentin Groves, had no immediate comment.

The Kansas City Chiefs released Succop on Saturday, going with an undrafted option at kicker. Succop, 27, hit 81% of his field goals over his last five seasons and his career long is 54 yards. He has spent the past five seasons with the Chiefs, who drafted him with the final pick of the 2009 draft out of South Carolina.

The Titans had kept Travis Coons, out of Washington, over Maikon Bonani in the final cuts after cutting Rob Bironas, the NFL's fourth most accurate kicker, who spent the past nine seasons in Tennessee.

Newton works out with flak jacket

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton returned to the practice field wearing an oversized flak jacket designed to provide added protection for his fractured ribs.

Newton smiled and even stopped to pose for a picture Monday with his newly enhanced armor before walking into practice, throwing passes and going through drills as normal.

It was the Newton's first practice since Aug. 22, when he had his ribs stepped on during a preseason game against the New England Patriots.

Coach Ron Rivera said last week that Newton would be evaluated over the weekend but expected him to play in Week 1 at Tampa Bay.

Etc.

The St. Louis Rams have signed 10 players to their practice squad. As expected, Michael Sam was not among them. The Rams added two each at linebacker, offensive line, wide receiver and safety. Sam, who is seeking to become the NFL's first openly gay player, starred at defensive line for Missouri, but Coach Jeff Fisher said the defensive line was the strongest group on the team. Rookie quarterback Garrett Gilbert was among cuts that got the roster to 53 players. ... The New York Jets signed cornerback Phillip Adams, adding depth to their thin secondary, and claimed speedy wide receiver Walter Powell off waivers from the Arizona Cardinals. The Jets also released a pair of draft picks — linebacker Jeremiah George and wide receiver Quincy Enunwa. Linebacker Tim Fugger was also waived from the injured reserve list. ... The Houston Texans have signed safety Danieal Manning, and cut safety Chris Clemons. ... The Jacksonville Jaguars have named journeyman Jacques McClendon their starting center.

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