AFC East Notes: Patriots, Gronk, Brady, Jets

The Patriots are optimistic tight end Rob Gronkowski will be fully recovered from his concussion in time to play in the Super Bowl, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link). Indeed, New England is game-planning as though Gronkowski will be available against the Eagles. Gronk did not wear a red non-contact jersey during practice today (as he previously had), tweets Doug Kyed of NESN, another positive development as the Patriots prepare for Sunday. Meanwhile, quarterback Tom Brady wore only black tape on his injured right hand during Wednesday’s practice, per Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post (Twitter link). Brady’s hand injury didn’t seem to affect him in the AFC Championship Game, and likely won’t have an effect on his Super Bowl performance.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Pending free agent corner Malcolm Butler said he “without a doubt” wants to return to the Patriots in 2018, reports James Palmer of NFL.com (Twitter link). Butler, 27, had an up-and-down season on the field, and was repeatedly involved in trade rumors during the preseason and during the 2017 campaign. New England engaged in Butler trade conversations with the Saints throughout the summer, and were reportedly open to dealing the former Super Bowl hero near the trade deadline. While the two sides could theoretically reach an agreement before the start of free agency, negotiations were never expected to take place until the season concluded.
  • The Patriots signed linebacker James Harrison in late December after he was released by the Steelers, and the veteran edge rusher today offered more details about his departure from Pittsburgh, as Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. Per Harrsison, the Steelers promised him 20-25% playtime, but he ended up seeing action on only 40 defensive plays, which amounts to roughly four percent. Fed up with his lack of a defined role, Harrison says he asked Pittsburgh three times to be traded before he was ultimately cut. The 39-year-old former Defensive Player of the Year has racked up two sacks in four games with New England.
  • The Jets worked out Canadian Football League star wideout Luke Tasker on Wednesday, tweets Field Yates of ESPN.com. Tasker, the son of former NFL Pro Bowler and current broadcaster Steve Tasker, set career-highs with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2017 by posting 104 receptions for 1,167 yards and seven touchdowns. He worked out for the Packers in 2014, but reportedly passed on a Green Bay offer to sign an extension with Hamilton.
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