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Rob Gronkowski takes part in New England Patriots drills

Rob Gronkowski looked "almost Gronk-esque" on Sunday as he practiced in full pads for the first time since having back surgery.

The star tight end for the New England Patriots participated in drills with his teammates during the 15 minutes reporters were allowed to observe the start of practice at Foxborough, Mass.

Gronkowski isn't expected to play in the first few games but wasn't placed on the physically unable to perform list, a move that would have required him to miss at least the first six games of the season.

"He looked good," tight end Michael Hoomanawanui said. "He looked almost Gronk-esque."

In his three NFL seasons, Gronkowski has been chosen for two Pro Bowls and caught 187 passes for 38 touchdowns despite missing the last five regular-season games last year.

He's had four operations this year, three on his broken left forearm and one on his back on June 18. He had another forearm surgery last year after breaking it on Nov. 18 while blocking on an extra point against the Indianapolis Colts.

Last year's other star tight end, Aaron Hernandez, is being held without bail on a murder charge.

Meanwhile, the Patriots released running back-kick returner Leon Washington, who is tied with Josh Cribbs for the NFL record with eight career kickoff returns for touchdowns,

Buffalo QB Manuel practices

Quarterback EJ Manuel returned to practice in Orchard Park, N.Y., and the Buffalo Bills are cautiously optimistic about his chances of starting the season opener.

Manuel returned after missing two weeks because of a left knee injury.

He participated in warmups and individual drills, where he moved well and did not show any ill effects from the injury. He was wearing a small brace on his left knee.

Bills Coach Doug Marrone said Manuel "looked good," adding, "I say that not knowing what can happen in the next couple days, but as far as today I think he looked good."

Manuel had been out since suffering a knee injury in Buffalo's second preseason game on Aug. 16. He had what the team called a "minor procedure" on the knee on Aug. 18.

The Bills plan to give Manuel his first reps in team drills since the injury on Monday.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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