“That was a ‘Palace Guard,’” he joked after the game.
On Sunday, he went to the locker room with team physician Dr. Thomas Gill with 3:55 left in the fourth quarter after blocking on an extra point that increased the victory margin to 35 points.
Gronkowski has played with a hip injury this season and was listed as questionable on the injury report for each of the past seven games. But Belichick voiced no second thoughts of continuing to have him block on kicks.
“I don’t think there are any quicker ways to lose a game than getting a kick blocked and run back for a touchdown,” he said. “Whoever does it, it’s a very important job in the game.”
The extra point on which Gronkowski was hurt followed the final touchdown, a 4-yard run by Shane Vereen. After the kick, and while most of his teammates were gathering near placekicker Stephen Gostkowski, Gronkowski walked straight to the sideline with his left arm hanging.
On the play, Gronkowski had lined up on the far right of the tight formation. Cornerback Marshay Green charged toward a narrow gap to Gronkowski’s left. Gronkowski raised his left arm, bent at the elbow. The arm bent back as it contacted Green’s left side. Gronkowski’s right arm did not touch anyone.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said Monday morning that he had known about the injury but did not know its extent.
“It’s part of this game,” he said on his weekly appearance on WEEI radio. “He’s got to do his best to get back as soon as possible, and we’ve got to go out there and win some games without him.”
Gronkowski had 10 touchdown catches as a rookie in 2010, then set NFL records for tight ends last year with 17 touchdowns and 1,327 yards receiving. He caught 90 passes. But he sprained his left ankle in the AFC title game and was a nonfactor in the Super Bowl, which New England lost 21-17 to the New York Giants.