Rob Gronkowski doesn't practice

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski did not practice Thursday with a left ankle injury.

Gronkowski injured the ankle in the third quarter of Sunday's AFC Championship Game win over the Baltimore Ravens. He limped off the field but returned to the game about five minutes after going down. He said his ankle was "good" after the game.

The tight end was spotted in a walking boot in recent days.

"I'm not going to try to forecast what it will be 10 days from now," coach Bill Belichick said. "We'll just take it day by day."

Thursday was the first practice for the Patriots as they prepare for the Feb. 5 Super Bowl against the Giants. Gronkowski is a big part of New England's offense. He had 90 catches for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns, a single-season record for a tight end.

When asked Thursday whether he thought his favorite target would be able to play in the Super Bowl, quarterback Tom Brady wasn't making any predictions.

"I have no idea. I'm not sure. I think everyone deals with bumps and bruises this time of year," Brady said. "It's the Super Bowl and we're all trying to get out there be healthy. It's tough to miss this game. You put all the work in over the course of the entire year to have the opportunity to play in this game, everyone is going to do everything they can be out there."

Fellow Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez said he missed his having his partner on the practice field.

"It's a little boring," Hernandez said, "but he'll be back out there soon."

Gronkowski's status figures to be one of the big storylines leading into Super Bowl XLVI. He is expected to play, but the bigger question is how effective he will be. Few benefit more from that effectiveness than Hernandez.

"It's great having a tight end like him. He can do it all," Hernandez said. "It makes it that much easier on me. If he's not here, it's obviously a lot tougher on me. He draws so much attention because of how big he is, how physical, [his] speed. It makes me a better player."

Asked if he had any doubts that Hernandez would be ready for the Super Bowl, he said, "I'm sure he'll take it day by day and I'm sure he'll be fine. That's for him and the trainers to know about."

Also on Thursday, the Patriots signed to the practice squad tight end Carson Butler, who spent most of the 2010 season on their practice squad and was released Sept. 2. He becomes the third tight end on the Patriots roster. Another tight end, Garrett Mills, is on the practice squad.

Mike Rodak is a regular contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Information from ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss and The Associated Press was used in this report.