Gronk not at practice; Talib present

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After scaling back their Wednesday practice to just a walk-through, the New England Patriots returned to their regular practice schedule on Thursday.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski (forearm/hip) was not on the field for the start of the session, after he did not participate in Wednesday's walk-through. If Gronkowski does not return to practice on Friday, his chances of playing Sunday night against the San Francisco 49ers would be slim.

Meanwhile, defensive tackle Kyle Love was back on the field on Thursday. His absence on Wednesday was not injury related.

Cornerbacks Aqib Talib (hip), Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), and Kyle Arrington (knee) were also present for the start of Thursday's practice, a positive sign after they were banged up in Monday night's game.

As in recent weeks, linebacker Brandon Spikes (ankle/knee) continued to ride the stationary bike once the team broke into positional drills. On Thursday, coach Bill Belichick and members of the training staff hovered by Spikes on the bike, a sign that his health status is being closely monitored.

Spikes was among several players (including guard Logan Mankins and tackle Sebsatian Vollmer) who did not play in the final minutes of Monday night's win over the Houston Texans, and it would not be a surprise if the Patriots scaled back their workload in the final games of the regular season.

The Patriots were in light shoulder pads, and have not practiced in full pads since Nov. 28.