The Patriots have been hopeful that tight end Rob Gronkowski returns for the season-opener.

They received a good sign on Monday as Gronkowski joined the team in 11-on-11 drills for the first time this preseason, according to ESPN.com. Gronkowski had previously been relegated to just 7-on-7 work.

In addition, the report states that Gronkowski has seen a number of balls thrown his way. That's certainly an encouraging sign for New England.

Even so, Gronkowski won't be participating in either of the organization's remaining two preseason games. And there will likely be very little that comes out the Patriots' headquarters until it's time to release inactives for the season-opener.

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