Two of the New England Patriots’ most important players are getting healthier as they prepare to head to Minneapolis for Super Bowl week.
After getting stitches in his right hand and thumb prior to the AFC championship game last week Stephen Curry Jersey
, quarterback Tom Brady was on the practice field Saturday, gripping the ball without a glove on his throwing hand. Tight end Rob Gronkowski also was at practice, returning to workouts after starting the week in the NFL’s concussion protocol.
Both are positive signs for New England, which has just one practice remaining in Foxborough before the team heads to Minnesota to resume its Super Bowl preparations. Defensive lineman Deatrich Wise, who also missed practice time this week with a concussion, joined Gronk in the team stretching period that is open to reporters.
Gronkowski hadn’t been on the practice field since his second-quarter exit from the AFC title game following a helmet-to-helmet hit from Jaguars safety Barry Church.
”It’s always great to have him out there. He’s a great player, a great person, a great teammate and a big part of what we do,” Brady said of Gronkowski. ”It obviously hurts when he’s not out there for a lot of reasons. But he’s doing the best he can do and we’re all hopeful.”
While Gronkowski and Wise were on the field, it’s unclear whether they have been officially cleared from the protocol. The team isn’t required to file its next injury report until Wednesday.
Gronk played just eight games last season and missed the Patriots’ entire playoff run after undergoing season-ending back surgery.
Since the start of last season, New England is 12-1 without Gronk. But last season it had Martellus Bennett to fill in the gap without him. Bennett signed with Green Bay in the offseason, before being released by the Packers in November. He then re-signed with the Patriots, but only appeared in two games before being placed on season-ending injured reserve.
Brady said he wants to spend the rest of the time leading up to the Super Bowl avoiding all possible distractions.
That includes not talking about a new series that debuted on Facebook recently and provides viewers a rare glimpse at his life off the field.
”What? Let’s talk about distractions,” Brady joked when he was asked about the series Saturday. ”We’ll stick to football this week, too. I like that no distractions part.”
Though this will be Brady’s eighth trip to the Super Bowl, the 40-year-old said he still has an appreciation for what it takes to be playing at this point of the season.
”I’ve never taken anything like this for granted Ryan Kalil Jersey
, and I think we’re all very fortunate to be in this game,” he said. ”Being a part of a couple of these losses, those are pretty tough to swallow, but I think you realize how much effort you have to put in to prepare. It’s a very unique environment, unique game, and you have to be at your best. But in order to do that, you have to prepare as well as you possibly can.”
NEW YORK — The Atlanta Braves have fared well against teams with winning records so far this season and this week will test their success.
The first stop for the Braves will be a visit to Yankee Stadium for the opener of a three-game interleague series with the New York Yankees on Monday night.
Atlanta (48-34) heads to New York after completing a three-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals with a 6-5 victory on Sunday.
Mike Foltynewicz pitched five one-hit innings and the Braves improved to 30-19 against teams with winning records, which is the best mark in the National League. Only the Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros are performing better against winning opponents.
Atlanta begins a stretch of 16 of 18 games against teams with winning records. After visiting Yankee Stadium for the first time since June 2012, the Braves visit Milwaukee for four games next weekend and host the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 13-15.
Freddie Freeman hit a two-run homer Sunday. He is 9-for-52 (.173) in his last 12 games.
“It’s coming,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker told reporters after Freeman hit his 16th homer of the season. “Somebody’s going to pay. It’s just one of those things that everybody goes through.
“He’s working, and we still have unbelievable confidence in him and what he brings. You feel like he’s going to do something special every time he goes up there.”
The Yankees also will get their first looks at rookie outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. and second baseman Ozzie Albies.
Acuna went 4-for-13 in the weekend series after missing a month with a mild ACL sprain and contusion in his left knee and also a lower back contusion. The 20-year-old is batting .269 with six homers and 15 RBIs in his first 32 games.
Albies enters with a .275 average and on an 11-game hitting streak. During the longest streak of his career, he is batting .431 (22-for-51).
The Yankees own the best home record in the majors at 31-12 and are 26-7 in their last 33 home games. New York also has slugged 77 of its major league-leading 137 homers at home after setting a season high with six in Sunday’s 11-1 rout of the Boston Red Sox.
Aaron Hicks hit three homers and Aaron Judge belted his 22nd, rookie Gleyber Torres hit his 15th and Kyle Higashioka delivered his first as the Yankees roughed up David Price.
Anibal Sanchez, who is 3-2 with a 2.68 ERA in nine appearances (eight starts), gets the ball for the Braves. He’s hoping to avoid his third straight loss after allowing six runs and 10 hits in 9 2/3 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays and the Cincinnati Reds.
Sanchez exited his last start on Tuesday with right calf cramps after throwing a pitch to Cincinnati’s Joey Votto.
Sanchez is making his 271st career start. The first start of his career occurred June 25 Graham Gano Jersey
, 2006, at old Yankee Stadium when he allowed seven hits in 5 2/3 scoreless innings for the Miami Marlins against a lineup featuring Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano.
Including his major league debut, Sanchez is 4-1 with a 3.79 ERA in six career starts against the Yankees. He last faced New York on Aug. 1 with the Detroit Tigers and held the Yankees to two runs and six hits in 6 2/3 innings in a 4-3 win at Yankee Stadium. It also was his last win with the Tigers.
If Sanchez gives the Braves a chance for a save opportunity in the ninth inning, Arodys Vizcaino could close it out. Vizcaino was placed on the disabled list June 24 with shoulder inflammation, took a rest day Sunday after throwing a side session Saturday and could be activated for the opener.
Vizcaino last pitched June 17. Before going on the DL, he posted a 1.82 ERA, converted 15 of 17 save opportunities and struck out 33 in 29 2/3 innings in 30 appearances.
Jonathan Loaisiga will make his fourth start since being inserted into the rotation for Masahiro Tanaka (hamstrings). Loaisiga is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his first three starts.
Two of those starts were scoreless outings as he threw a combined 10 1/ 3 scoreless innings, allowed four hits and fanned 14 in wins over Tampa Bay on June 15 and at Philadelphia last Monday. His other start was June 20 when he allowed three runs and six hits in 3 2/3 innings of a 7-5 win over the Seattle Mariners decided on a walk-off homer by Stanton.
“He was a lot more assertive, a lot more aggressive with his fastball and challenging the strike zone with it,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “We saw a number of really good breaking balls. We saw some good changeups. When he got in some putaway counts, I felt like he did a better job of making it look like a strike out of the hand, which is something you’ve got to be better at here in the big leagues.”
Monday will be the 30th regular-season meeting between the teams, who met in the 1996 and 1999 World Series. The Yankees are 17-12 all-time against the Braves.