FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots received some positive news to start training camp: Tight end Rob Gronkowski has been cleared to play, and won't begin the season on the physically unable to perform list.
"He's been here," coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday at Gillette Stadium. "He would be ineligible to (appear on PUP list) because he's been cleared to play."
Gronkowski is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered Week 14 last year against the Cleveland Browns. That he has been cleared to play this early after sustaining a major knee is extremely positive for the Patriots, who are considered one of the favorites in the AFC.
"Rob has always worked hard," Belichick said. "He worked hard as a rookie, so he has always worked hard when he's here. I can't speak for the rest of the time, but from what we've seen he has been consistent."
Veteran players were reporting to Patriots training camp Wednesday, and the first practice is Thursday. How much Gronkowski is able to do at this stage, however, is yet to be determined.
In addition to his presence on the football field, Gronkowski being cleared to play also gives the franchise a boost in the locker room, as the tight end is one of the team's most outgoing personalities.
"Gronk is Gronk," defensive end Rob Ninkovich said. "He's 'Yo soy fiesta,' right? I think he's a tremendous player. Personality-wise, he's one of the best guys you could ever meet. He's a great guy off the field. He'll say hi to anybody and do anything for you.
"I'm happy to see his progress and to see him coming into this season and staying healthy. Obviously that's what everybody is talking about. I don't want to speak on his behalf, but he's one of the hardest-working guys I've ever seen as well. All of that together makes for one heck of a football player."
WATCH: THREE POTENTIAL BREAKOUT PLAYERS FOR PATRIOTS
USA TODAY Sports' Chris Strauss examines three Patriots primed for big 2014 seasons.
Gronkowski missed the first six games of 2013 recovering from a forearm injury, but eventually suited up in seven games. In the past two seasons, Gronkowski has played in only 18 games.
"It's a positive," guard Logan Mankins said. "We were all hoping Gronk would have a good recovery and so far he has. We'll just see where he is and how good he is right now. It's great to have him out there. He's a dynamic blocker. He does a great job blocking and he's a big target for Tom [Brady] to get the ball to when he gets open. Any time you can have Gronk on the field, it's great."
Gronkowski registered 39 receptions for 592 yards and four touchdowns last season.
Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @Lorenzo_G_Reyes
PHOTOS: SCENES FROM NFL TRAINING CAMPS