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Gronkowski cleared for Super Bowl, 'ready to roll'

By Frank Pingue

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Rob Gronkowski was cleared from concussion protocol on Thursday, giving New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady his biggest weapon in time to take on the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday in the Super Bowl.

The Patriots tight end, who suffered a concussion in the AFC Championship game 11 days ago that left him visibly shaken, took a full part in practice on Thursday and said he would not be limited when the Patriots try to defend their title.

"I'm cleared, I'm ready to roll," Gronkowski told reporters during the team's final media session ahead of the Super Bowl. "I'll be full speed, taking on hits, blocking, running routes, whatever it will be."

The NFL's concussion protocol is a five-step process that starts with rest and recovery before moving to aerobic exercise, strength training, football-specific activities and then full football activity before being cleared to play.

Gronkowski, who led the Patriots with 1,084 receiving yards and eight receiving touchdowns during the regular season, said the extra week of rest before the Super Bowl allowed plenty of time to get through the concussion protocol.

"I would say they were more on the cautious side of getting me out there right away with the bye week and everything in between which definitely helped out big time," said Gronkowski.

"But just did every step by step every day and everything went smooth and I officially got the word today that I was cleared so it was super nice to hear."

Gronkowski, who missed last year's Super Bowl win against the Atlanta Falcons because of a back injury, said he had been progressing well all week and that he had no doubt that he would be cleared in time to play in the Super Bowl.

"I knew I was going to be playing the whole time but I was just obviously being cautious too," said Gronkowski. "I didn't want to jump right into right away, the team didn't want to do it.

"We did the process very well with the training staff here and the doctors that we have I think they did a great job in preparing me to get back on the field."

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)