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Rob Gronkowski Completes Individual Drills

The team's ailing depth chart--and fans--can now breathe a sigh of relief as it appears the Patriots' banner tight end is inching closer to an eventual return.

Rick Stewart

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>TE Rob Gronkowski works extensively with asst. strength coach on side field in t-shirt/shorts, doing agility drills and catching passes.</p>&mdash; Field Yates (@FieldYates) <a href="">August 26, 2013</a></blockquote>
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Thank you, Moses! (Cabrera)

Today marks the first time that TE Rob Gronkowski has participated in any type of organized drill since landing on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. In exactly five days from now, the Patriots will have to decide whether to keep Gronkowski on the PUP--and thus making him ineligible during the first six games of the regular season--or to keep him off and burn a spot on the 53-man if they feel he's close(r) to returning.

While Gronkowski unsurprisingly has plenty of work to do in regards to reaching optimal "game shape," the news comes at a welcome time with one preseason game left on the slate. Any time the Patriots can devote to rehabilitating their offensive flint apart from the week-to-week regular season grind is invaluable at this stage. And if Sudfeld's gaffe last week is any indication, rookie hiccups could weigh down any inherent upside out of the gate.

Rushing Gronkowski back prematurely is far more detrimental than, say, some closer-than-expected shootouts with a Jeff Tuel or a Geno Smith, so look for the team to take the conservative route. Still, with no real reason to have Gronkowski on the field in the throes of preseason, the signals for an increasingly clean bill of health are strong.