SUPER BOWL XLVI NOTEBOOK: Gronkowski finally practices; 'Never Miss a Super Bowl' club still going strong

Rob Gronkowski smiles after a reporter tells him Thursday that the New York Giants reacted sarcastically when they said they were “shocked” to hear he would play in Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Rob Gronkowski smiles after a reporter tells him Thursday that the New York Giants reacted sarcastically when they said they were “shocked” to hear he would play in Sunday’s Super Bowl.

INDIANAPOLIS — Rob Gronkowski practiced with the New England Patriots for the Super Bowl for the first time Thursday. Now coach Bill Belichick is waiting to see how the All-Pro tight end’s injured ankle responds.

Gronkowski, recovering from a high sprain in his left ankle, participated on a limited basis for the first time since being injured Jan. 22 in the third quarter of the 23-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC championship game.

“He did some things. He didn’t do everything,” Belichick said. “We’ll see how he is (Friday). I think that will be the big key.”

Gronkowski, who set an NFL single-season record for tight ends with 17 touchdown catches, took part during the second half of the nearly two-hour practice for Sunday’s championship game against the New York Giants.

“It was fine,” Belichick said, “It was a good test for him, too, at least. At least he was out here and did some things to see how it feels. We’ll see how it goes.”

Gronkowski wore a removable boot for a week before discarding it Monday. Teammates have expressed confidence that he would play Sunday against the New York Giants.

“I know he’s going to be ready,” tight end Aaron Hernandez said. “It’s not like he broke anything or he can’t walk on it. He got a little sprain and he’s fine.”

Ten other players participated in practice on a limited basis. The Patriots will taper off their activity at Friday’s session.

“Obviously, we don’t have much new going in, just kind of making sure everything we have going in we’ve got right,” Belichick said.

The Patriots plan to hold a walk through on Saturday.

On Wednesday, Belichick took a half-hour break in practice to simulate the extended halftime for the Super Bowl.

“It’s not perfect but it’s the best we could do,” Belichick said. “Practice, take a break, come back out and re-start.”

NEVER MISS A SUPER BOWL CLUB ENTERS 46TH YEAR: Don Crisman plans to attend the Super Bowl for the 46th time. And why not? He’s one of four charter members of the Never Miss a Super Bowl Club.

The 75-year-old from Kennebunk, Maine, made it to Indianapolis for Sunday’s game between the New York Giants and his favorite team, the New England Patriots.

“My Patriots this year, of course, I can’t miss,” he said when asked who he’s picking to win.

Crisman had no idea his Super streak would last so long.

“I thought about quitting at 30 (Super Bowls) and then they (the Patriots) got in 31, so I said ‘I’ll go another 10 years, and here I’m going,” Crisman said.

Crisman was among four men who had never missed the Super Bowl that appeared in a Visa commercial last year promoting the credit card company’s “Super Bowl Trip for Life” sweepstakes.

Crisman said Robert Cook of Brown Deer, Wis., a Packers fan who was in the commercial, died four days after missing the Super Bowl the Packers won last year. His widow, Sarah, is expected to attend this year in his place.

The other surviving members of the club, Larry Jacobean of San Francisco and Tom Henschel, a Steelers fan, plan to join Crisman in Indianapolis.

Jacobean, a 49ers season-ticket holder, nearly got to watch his team match up with the Patriots, but they lost to the Giants in the NFC title game.

BRADY BACK TRACKS BUFFALO BASH: Tom Brady is sorry for denigrating hotels in Buffalo.

The New England Patriots quarterback apologized Thursday for an off-the-cuff comment about Buffalo hotels. A day earlier, he said that hotels there are “not the nicest places in the world.”

In response, one of the top hotels in Buffalo offered a free night’s stay to show him he’s wrong. Brady appreciated the offer and said he was sorry for his comment. He suggested he should have picked a “non-NFL city” in his comment about places to stay that he didn’t particularly enjoy.

FEDS MAKE $5M FAKE SUPER BOWL SWAG BUST: Federal officials say authorities have seized nearly $5 million worth of phony Super Bowl sportswear and merchandise in a nationwide sweep.

Officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced the results of the four-month investigation Thursday in Indianapolis.

Agents targeted stores, flea markets and street vendors that allegedly sold counterfeit game-related sportswear. Fake jerseys, ball caps, T-shirts, jackets and other souvenirs were among the 42,000 items confiscated in Operation Fake Sweep.

Authorities put the total take at more than $4.8 million, up from $3.7 million last year.

The government also is seizing more than 300 websites alleged to have illegally streamed live sporting telecasts over the Internet or sold counterfeit sports merchandise.

OSI SORRY FOR MEDIA DAY MIXUP: New York Giants DE Osi Umenyiora insists his absence from a mandatory media session four days before the Super Bowl was an honest mistake and not an attempt to blow off the function to spend time with his family.

A day after the NFL fined him $20,000 for missing the session, Umenyiora attended Thursday’s media availability and once again apologized for his absence Wednesday. Umenyiora had no problem with the amount of the fine, saying it made sense.

FLIPPING OUT OVER THE COIN FLIP: One word from Giants special teams captain Zak DeOssie will begin the Super Bowl.

With more than 100 million people watching in the United States alone, the long snapper from New York, other Giants captains and their counterparts from New England will see referee John Parry display both sides of a special commemorative coin for the opening toss.

Then, DeOssie will choose his side.

“I’ve called ‘tails’ every single time this year, and that’s what it’s going to be this weekend,” DeOssie said Thursday.

Chances are, he’ll be right.

The National Conference has won the last 14 Super Bowl coin flips, though that hasn’t turned out so well in the end. The American Conference has won nine of those 14 title games.

Want to pick the Super Bowl winner? Might as well just flip a coin. The team that’s won the opening toss is only 22-23 in the title game.