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 all-time when Gronkowski plays against the Dolphins, but Miami has kept him in some check of late. Gronkowski’s last two games against Miami resulted in a total of only four catches.
“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 and MCL last 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.
Asked if he feels ready, Gronkowski said, “Definitely. I feel mentally and physically ready, for sure, no doubt about it.”
“Just the way we just worked throughout all camp and the last few weeks, everything’s just been going well,” Gronkowski added. “There’s been no setbacks, just more and more (work) every single day.
“Now I just have to focus on the Miami Dolphins, just keep focusing on getting better and getting stronger.”