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Patriots protect themselves at FB with Glenn Gronkowski's return

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When the New England Patriots lost fullback James Develin to a broken leg in the 2015 preseason, they didn't have another player at the position to fill the void. That was something they wanted to address in 2016, which led them to sign Glenn Gronkowski to the practice squad, and now Gronkowski is returning in 2017.

The team announced the re-signing of Gronkowski, the youngest of Rob Gronkowski's four brothers, on Tuesday.

Gronkowski's return comes as Develin, who was praised by coach Bill Belichick after Super Bowl LI for bringing toughness to the team, is set to become an unrestricted free agent. Develin could still return to the Patriots in 2017.

The 6-foot-3, 234-pound Gronkowski originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with the Buffalo Bills on May 2, 2016. He made the Bills' initial roster, played in the team's season-opening game, and then was released.