|Rob Gronkowski can lean on Logan Mankins at practice, but Sunday he'll be on his own. (AP)|
INDIANAPOLIS -- The positive signs are coming in waves in regard to the left ankle of tight end Rob Gronkowski.
After Gronkowski practiced Thursday for the first time since injuring that ankle in the New England Patriots' AFC Championship Game victory over Baltimore, the big question on Bill Belichick's mind was how he would respond to the stress of the limited workout. The results were encouraging.
"I think he was OK this morning," Belichick said Friday. "I don't think we had any setbacks. He's gotten treatment morning, noon and night, and he's gotten better on a daily basis. Hopefully we'll be able to continue that same process [Friday], [Saturday], and all day Sunday. We'll see where that takes us, but I think he's coming along."
By all accounts the most famous ankle in Indianapolis looks ready to endure the game. Gronkowski is officially listed as questionable on the injury report and spent Friday's practicing jogging through the light workout without a noticeable limp.
The key will be how he can handle the pressure of resuming his position as the centerpiece of the offense in a season where he racked up 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns receiving, both NFL records for tight ends. To do so will involve more than just extra tape or a cortisone shot.
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Many are wondering how his stamina will hold up.
"That's what I'm wondering too," Gronkowski said. "The training staff has us doing things to keep it up."
A reporter asked Belichick if he would consider retiring after the game should he capture his fourth Super Bowl title as a head coach. Belichick has said before he doesn't plan on coaching until he's 70 and will turn 60 in April.
Belichick ducked answering the question specifically but didn't much sound like a coach looking to hang it up anytime soon.
"I enjoy the team-building, the drafting, the free agents, team acquisitions -- those kind of things," he said. "I enjoy bringing in the young players and working with guys who haven't been in the NFL and teaching them the basic fundamentals in how to become a professional football player for the New England Patriots.
"I enjoy working with the veteran players, the Tom Bradys and the Vince Wilforks and the Wes Welkers and all those kind of players that can do really special things because of their not only talent, but experience.
"I enjoy the competition on a weekly basis. Not just on Sundays, but the preparation leading up into the game. I enjoy all of it. It beats working."
Both teams are staying in the hotels they've been in all week in downtown Indianapolis. In the past, some teams have changed hotels at the end of the week in the days immediately before the Super Bowl.
There was no need to move, and Belichick is taking full advantage of the final two days. They will be heading over for their first practice in the stadium on Saturday afternoon, including team pictures. A Saturday night meeting will be the last team activity before they wake up for Super Bowl Sunday.
"We're kind of combining these next couple days into one where it's an extended type of Saturday preparation," he said.
Dance, dance revolution
Giants receiver Victor Cruz is known for his dancing skills, but suggestions have been flying at Aaron Hernandez that he should break out a dance move of his own if he reaches the end zone Sunday.
Hernandez appreciates Cruz honoring the Hispanic community they both belong to, but he may try out a different move.
"They told me to do the salsa and I was joking around, saying maybe I'll do the merengue," he said.
Hall of Tuna
It's no secret who Bill Belichick believes should be on the list of inductees when the Hall of Fame committee exits its meeting Saturday.
Belichick worked under Bill Parcells with the Giants, Patriots and Jets and paid another in a long line of great compliments to him when asked what he would tell the Hall committee about his former boss.
"In my time as a coach in the National Football League, not getting back to coaches that I just barely overlapped with, or didn't overlap with at all, I would say of the coaches that I've been with over this time, either with or competing against, I would certainly put him right up there at the top," Belichick said. "I learned an awful lot from him and think he's done a tremendous job and had a tremendous career. I can't imagine him being left out of the group."