Rob Gronkowski targets opener

MEDFIELD, Mass. -- New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who underwent surgery for a torn right ACL on Jan. 9, is optimistic enough about his progress to the point that playing in the regular-season opener is on his radar.

"I'm planning on playing the whole season this year," Gronkowski said Friday night during his Football 101 Women's Clinic at a local high school.

The Patriots open the season Sept. 7 at the Miami Dolphins.

"I'm always antsy to get back on the field, no matter when it is," he said. "I just want to play football. I love playing the game."

Gronkowski played all 16 games in each of his first two NFL seasons. But he was limited to seven games last season, first playing in Week 7 once his previously broken forearm was medically cleared before tearing his ACL on a hit by safety T.J. Ward in a Dec. 8 game against the Cleveland Browns. In 2012, Gronkowski played 11 games.

While Gronkowski is hopeful to be ready for the 2014 season opener, he is less certain about his status for the start of training camp on July 24. He would seemingly be most likely to start camp on the active/physically unable to perform list.

"I don't know yet until I report, so I'll sit down with the coaches and training staff and we'll see," he said. "I'm just working with the trainers right now, improving every single day and whenever it starts up, whatever the trainers have, whatever the coaches have for me, whatever we feel comfortable with [we'll be] doing as much as possible every day that I can do."

Gronkowski added that he's spent most of his offseason working out at the Patriots' facility. In a lighter moment during a question-and-answer session with those at his camp, Gronkowski said he'd select Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel second in his fantasy football draft. The two have struck up a friendship.

"He's a good guy," Gronkowski said with a chuckle, "but I'm just really worried about myself right now and worrying about camp coming up."

Gronkowski did make note of the four-year, $40 million contract extension signed by New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham earlier this week.

"Congrats to Jimmy Graham, for sure. It's great for tight ends to be getting recognized now these days and getting paid what they deserve," he said.