Rob Gronkowski’s return from injury will be a big factor for the Patriots in 2014. (USA TODAY Images)

The New England Patriots kick off their mandatory Mini-camp on Tuesday morning starting with a Bill Belichick press conference at 8:30 followed by practice from 11:15 to 1:15 with certain players meeting with the media after each practice. The practice schedule will continue for Wednesday and Thursday as well.

With the team going through the final tune-up prior to training camp starting in July, here are five of the things we’ll be looking for this week:


With so many players returning from serious injuries, this will be a big test for many of the players in a mandatory setting. Vince Wilfork has seen some action in OTAs which is a good sign that his rehab is going well. Rob Gronkowski has been on the field for part of the workouts but has mainly worked out in the bubble away from prying eyes.

First round draft pick Dominique Easley is recovering from a second ACL injury and we’ll be monitoring whether he can make an appearance on the field this week. Other defensive line players to monitor include Tommy Kelly and free agent addition Will Smith.

Wide receiver Aaron Dobson is doubtful to participate as he’s still on the mend from off-season foot surgery but Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer will bear watching as well. And on the subject of watching, Armond Armstead who was looked to in 2013 to provide depth along the defensive line and subsequently developed an infection that required season ending surgery will be a popular subject. He has been seen very rarely since being signed last spring. This will be a big test.